Biffy Clyro - 'Opposites'
Q: What does a kazoo, a mariachi band, a set of bagpipes and three hirsute Scotsmen have in common?
A: They all appear on the new Biffy Clyro double record, “Opposites”
The sixth full length from the quirky alt rockers is their most ambitious and bombastic offering yet, and that’s saying something considering the enormousness of predecessor “Only Revolutions”. Check out the massive “That Golden Rule” to better grasp what I’m saying.
The first part of Biffy’s career consisted of jagged, angular alternative rock that at times ventured very close to post-hardcore or emocore territory. For a taste of this check out the song “57” or their superb albeit off-kilter sophomore album “The Vertigo of Bliss”. Their first major commercial success though came with their fourth album, “Puzzle”. This was the first of their albums to display a reduction in the weirdness and a polishing of production and melodic elements. 2009’s “Only Revolutions” built on this formula, adding in more instrumentation and a greater sense of grandeur. Supporting arena tours for the Foo Fighters and Muse followed.
And then the time came for the Biff to record a new album. According to the band, front man and song-writer Simon Neill went on a writing rampage, churning out song after song over a period of a few months (Other members are twins Ben Johnston (Drums) and James Johnston (Bass)). The pick of these songs make up the majority of “Opposites”.
And now we come to the issue of the double album. Traditionally the vast majority of double albums fall into the same trap. You get bored before the end of them and more than likely they will contain a number of “filler” tracks. Even classic double albums such as Smashing Pumpkins’ “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” or Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde” are guilty of spreading themselves a little thin.
This is where “Opposites” great strength lies. I can honestly say it is one of, if not THE most consistent double record I have ever heard. From the opening line of “Different People” to the final strains of “Picture a Knife Fight” this record is just one cracking song after another. The three-piece has a brilliant knack of producing brilliantly catchy rock songs that are deceptively layered and musically accomplished. Their habit of using strange time signatures and then changing them mid-song is a good illustration of this.
The album does present a rough concept as well. The first disc “The Sand at the Core of our Bones” is much darker lyrically than the second half, “The Land at the End of our toes”. Neil described “The Sand...” as looking at things very negatively whilst “The Land…” displays a more positive outlook on life. Certainly the album’s three most down-trodden-esque songs “The Fog”, “The Thaw” and the title-track are all present on the first disc, whilst the second disc contains the bouncy “Pocket” and “Woo Woo”, as well as the slightly bizarre, mariachi band opened “Spanish Radio”.
Even though the band may have cut out some of their idiosyncrasies in more recent times, the lyrics are one place they still display themselves in all their quirky-glory. “Little Hospitals” opens with the line “I’ll turn your baby into lemonade”, whilst “Stingin’ Belle” includes the phrase “You think you’re cool like a porcupine”.
Yet somehow the lyrics do work. With Neil blurting them out in a thick Scottish accent, they just seem to fit. Much like the Red Hot Chili Peppers actually… (Hardcore soft porn/ First born unicorn…..What the actual fuck Anthony Kiedis!!)
It’s a pretty difficult task to decide on stand out tracks out of the 20 given up here. “Different People” is a fantastic opener. For me, the moment that searing riff comes in I just knew this was going to be a cracking album. “Black Chandelier” was an obvious choice for the first single. The ‘breakdown’ in that track is particularly head-bang worthy. “The Joke’s on Us” is one of the most immediate and urgent sounding tracks on the whole album, whilst “The Fog” and “The Thaw” are probably the two best delicate moments.
“Stingin’ Belle” opens the second half with a huge bang before being followed up by the excellent “Modern Magic Formula”. “Pocket”, “Accident without Emergency” and “Picture a Knife Fight” are all terrific but it is probably “Victory over the Sun” that gets my vote for the best song over the two disks. From a slow start it builds into a razor sharp riffed section before exploding into a monumental chorus. One of the better tracks Biffy have ever written.
Ok, so obviously I was pretty blown away by this album, however it does have a couple of detractors. Firstly, the band just simply won’t be for everyone. Their strange lyrics and angular instrumentation won’t always sit comfortably for some people whilst others who prefer their music grimy and less polished may not warm to it either. Still I would suggest that most would be able to appreciate the talent and creativity this band has.
From my point of view though, this is an incredibly ambitious album that, remarkably, the band have been able to pull off with absolute aplomb, producing one of the most consistently brilliant albums you are likely to hear this year.
Biffy Clyro - 'Black Chandelier' (Official Video)