Opposites

biffy-clyro-oppositesThe time has finally come, if you’ve been following the blog you will have seen that in the build up to this release I’ve been reviewing all of Biffy Clyro’s albums and now we come full circle; to the reason all this hype began, the Scottish trios new double LP Opposites. Now the only question left to answer is whether the album lives up to expectations?

Everything kicks off with Different People which starts off softly before bursting into a windy, ripply guitar heavy track, its a strong opener that sets a tone for the whole record which makes a point of mixing light and shade, obviously reflected in the title. One of the big claims the band made in the build up to the album was that it should have material to keep the old and the new fans happy, effectively incorporate all their previous styles into this one record. On first listen it may be that this album is a million miles away from their old stuff but on repeat listens it becomes clearer that there’s sprinkles of their old heaviness throughout. Black Chandelier for example features a solo that wouldn’t have been out of place on Infinity Land. There’s bits that sound like Blackened Sky too, the chanty choruses of Picture a Knife Fight or Victory Over the Sun. The orchestral elements that have been a part of the band’s work since Vertigo of Bliss is apparent in Opposites in it’s most complete form yet making it the most epic sounding album they’ve ever made surpassing even Puzzle which was their previous best in terms of scale.There’s improvements on the poppy sounding pieces familiar to that of Only Revolutions Little Hospitals being a one example and one of my favourite tracks of the whole album.

When stacked up against all their old albums I think Opposites stands up very well among all the bands previous efforts perhaps not reaching the heights of their masterpiece to date, Infinity Land, but certainly improving on both Only Revolutions and Puzzle and there is certainly more here for fans of the old stuff, with Opposites the choice to have it as a double album has really worked in the bands favour giving them the opportunity to put out a more holistic record painting a more complete picture than their last effort. Biffy have done it again.

 

Only Revolutions

OnlyRevolutionsSo Biffy Clyro’s new double album, Opposites, will be upon us in exactly twenty days meaning the time has come to review their last studio effort, Only Revolutions and thus leave you with a review on every Biffy album to date. Released back in 2009 Only Revolutions had the almighty challenge of following up the bands most successful album, Puzzle, making it their first release as a huge commercial band. They had the task of pleasing their old fans and new ones in an album that was expected to be a big commercial success.

It has since become the bands biggest selling record further cracking the mainstream and bringing the Scottish trio to the forefront of British music. It received good press as well, the album has a score of 79 on Metacritic and was nominated for the Mercury Prize in its year of release which further boosted its sales. Despite all this, though, I have to say it is my least favourite album of theirs. My friends who knew back when this came out may call a hypocrite now because when it came out I made a rather rash statement that it was their best but like me explain how my mind has changed over time.

Biffy’s first three albums all had a much more raw underground sound that gave their music a lot more depth making it more rewarding on repeat listens. With Puzzle a lot of their more heavy sounds were no longer present but the record itself worked as a whole better than anything they’d done before which sort of made up for the lack of hard rock. Only Revolutions on the other hand, seems as if the heavier stuff is still missing and the album is not as much a complete piece as Puzzle feels. It is their only album of theirs which has some dud tracks such as Many of Horror and Know Your Quarry both of which are bland and far too normal to portray Biffy’s famous awkwardness, perhaps pushing the band in a more mainstream less interesting direction. Having said that there are tracks here as well that are quite the opposite fully showing how weird the group can be making for much more interesting and unique listening, Born on a Horse, Cloud of Stink and Whorses for example but all of which still lack the real visceral punch that was present on Infinity Land and its predecessors. It comes as a surprise as well that despite said tracks giving you a bit more of a taste of authentic Biffy the stand-out track is the acoustic track God and Satan a song which features some of Simon Neill’s most interesting lyrics to date but it seems a shame that a band I previously loved for their heavy tracks have lost a certain edge making the album as a whole feel disappointing.

From some things I’ve heard from Opposites I think we can expect a good mix of old and new Biffy styles, perhaps the choice to make it a double album will provide the band enough scope to fully flesh out both of their creative sides, perhaps Opposites could be the bands true masterpiece, we shall have to wait and see, watch this space for my review once the album’s out…

 

Puzzle

tumblr_m7b05y2v9t1qj7ry5o1_1280Continuing on my series of reviewing Biffy Clyro’s discography we’ve reached number 4. 2007’s Puzzle saw a rather major change in direction for the band but also became the groups biggest commercial success as yet. Toning down the screamy, more disjointed sections that appeared on previous albums Biffy started to move more in the direction of indie while still holding onto their uniqueness in the process.

I, personally, think Puzzle is under-rated among original Biffy fans and is, in fact, their most coherent album as an album. Throughout the album there’s little hints towards the epic climax to come in the form of ‘9/15ths’ a song with  such charm that a few minutes in you’ll be chanting ‘We’re on a hellslide help us, help us’ along with them. It’s this grand scale that shows the biggest difference between Puzzle and its predecessors, although it’s not the first time the band use orchestration its easily the most reliant on a backing up of orchestra. Particularly in ‘9/15ths’ and ‘Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies’.

Many fans would argue that the album doesn’t have enough bite but I think it does just in different places, whereas their older albums were more prone to descend into madness at the first chance Puzzle is all about the build up and perhaps that is both it’s greatest achievement and its biggest stumbling block. From the points I’ve been making so far it would appear I think Puzzle is their best album, however I don’t and I think the reason is this: The build up is so epic but we are left with something that doesn’t quite live up to our expectations. And it appears the band didn’t even think the finale quite had enough power to finish the album off having to round it off with, the great but much more understated, ‘Machines’. It all just feels like the scale had just been blown out of proportion marginally too much. It misses out on being as good Infinity Land because it focusses to much on bigging self up whereas Infinity was happy to burst out at you at any moment. Puzzle is still nonetheless a very good album.

 

Infinity Rap III – 14.11.12

I have yet again failed in putting my weekly update up on the right day, but one day late I suppose isn’t too bad. Anyway, this week started off slightly slow so I decided to carry on with my Biffy Clyro reviews, Infinity Land had it’s turn https://musicmoviesgenerallifeandsuch.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/infinity-land/ to get analysed by me. Then the moment I’d been waiting for, the release of the new Crystal Castles album, III, my review of that one can be found here https://musicmoviesgenerallifeandsuch.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/iii/.  And finally I watched Ice-T’s documentary on the story of hip hop which you can have a look at here https://musicmoviesgenerallifeandsuch.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/something-from-nothing-the-art-of-rap/. Any comments or feedback is greatly appreciated, please do voice your opinions on any of these pieces.

Well it probably won’t be till next week that I review this but I am ridiculously excited to see P.T. Anderson’s new movie, The Master which opens on Friday so I’ll leave you this week with a trailer:

Infinity Land

If you’ve been following my album reviews you will have seen I have been working my way through Biffy Clyro’s albums in the run up to the release of their new album Opposites. Well today is the turn of Infinity Land, the groups third album and the moment when they really put their mark on the world. Infinity Land is almost certainly they’re best album and I’m going to try my best to explain why.

When I first listened to Infinity Land I have to admit it wasn’t my favourite, I always preferred it to Vertigo of Bliss but I was for a long while adamant that Blackened Sky was their greatest. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly when but there was a point about a year and a half ago that I realised what a truly great album Infinity Land actually is. It takes the grand scale and awkward, disjointed nature of …Bliss and builds them into what is a more complete, fully realised vision.

Right from it’s opening track it’s clear that this is something completely different. ‘Glitter and Trauma’ starts off with an electronic build up flowing into a head banging riff that forms the basis of the song. But this more mainstream sounding riff is broken up at various intervals to be replaced by strange plucky, off-beat sections making the song jittery and messy. This, essentially, is what the album does as a whole. Just as you get into the flow of a song that sounds more normal you’ll be jolted into absurdity. But it is in these moments of absurdity that Infinity Land improves massively on …Bliss because these sections are done with so much more aplomb. It is very interesting to see how the band grew after that record and they became so much more able to reflect their vision within their music. The multi-layered ‘Wave Upon Wave Upon Wave’ is perhaps the best example of what the record has to offer and is, maybe, my favourite Biffy song altogether.

Infinity Land marks the end, really, of this era of Biffy, their next album Puzzle would see them start in a new direction, but Infinity Land also marks their most fully realised unique album they have done so far. This album is one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

 

The Vertigo of Bliss

 

Since all my last few posts have been film reviews and there has been a lack of interesting albums released in the last few weeks I thought I’d take the time to review an old album, furthermore, since a moth or so back I reviewed Biffy Clyro’s debut Blackened Sky I thought I’d further my back catalogue with a review of their follow-up, 2003’s Vertigo of Bliss. Aka the one with the woman fingering herself on the cover. Anyway, slightly bizarre artwork aside, let’s talk about the music.

The Vertigo of Bliss is a much more experimental album than it’s predecessor and it is, arguably, the first time Biffy manage to get themselves a unique signature sound, not discounting any good qualities of the first record, I love that album, but this is where things start to get a bit more special. Introducing  very disjointed sounds and a lot more screaming, with Vertigo of Bliss Biffy Clyro use their skilful instrumentalism to spring board off into an album that spreads into the unknown. It’s clear the band are starting to feel much more comfortable to do something more risky, add some punch and throw in some more unpredictability.  There are parts of songs that don’t even sound connected to the last section but rather than being un-listenable it somehow, on some sub conscious level, works.

It’s not 100% madness though, there are moments of real thoughtfulness on this record. Questions and Answers for example is not quite so experimental it is much more thoughtful lyrically, and much more standard musically and is one of the albums stand out tracks. Toys toys toys, choke toys toys toys is obviously the one most people remember from this album and that is perhaps the most mainstream sounding track on here, it shows a band with a great diversity though, and in many ways Toys toys toys… encompasses all the different elements that have been tossed together in the songs of this album.

As a summary of my relationship with the record I have to say, the more mainstream songs I don’t like as much as the ones on Blackened Sky whereas the more experimental tracks I don’t enjoy quite as much as the ones on Infinity Land, but Vertigo of Bliss still has something going for it. Whether it’s just an interesting album that bridges the creative gap in between Blackened Sky and Infinity Land or if it has a complete charm of it’s own I could never decide. But it is nonetheless one that everyone should listen to.

P.S. I’m excited very much for Opposites, watch this space for more Biffy reviews