If you’re a true fan of underground British rock, then Biffy Clyro have to be one of its biggest success stories. Three albums in with a huge underground following, they signed up to the majors and made the transition to the wider mainstream with relative ease, sacrificing a little, but not all, of their proggy, angular style , finally becoming household names along the way. It’s been an incredible ride, so without question this is the most anticipated Biffy Clyro album yet. The coming-up-on-the-rails success of ‘Puzzle’ and ‘Only Revolutions’, in addition to sold-out stadium shows and even a Mercury Music Prize nomination for the latter of those two albums, as well as that annoying fucker who maimed ‘Many of Horror’, destined for supermarket aisles everywhere, has done nothing to deflect attention away from arguably the UK’s biggest rock band right now. And before this review was published, it became the band’s first number one album since their inception.
The first CD, dubbed ‘The Sand at the Core of our Bones‘, charts the negative of Biffy’s unstoppable rise over the last few years, and is by and large excellent, though the forays into stadium style anthems with the title produced mixed results – initially ‘Different People’, the opening track, gives off the impression of a band listening to their fair share of Jesu before diving into the sound we’re used to. The angular rock flourishes are still there on the likes of ‘Sounds Like Balloons’, and there are huge choruses aplenty in that track and the now familiar ‘Black Chandelier’, though stuff like the title track are a little hard to stomach for its cringy foray into lighter rock. Still, the frankly huge ‘The Thaw’ is proof they can get this megastar thing right if they hit the right formula – fair enough it’s boosted by a big orchestra but it sounds fecking massive, and even the hardened metalhead in me found this strangely irresistible.
Biffy Clyro – Stingin’ Belle
The second CD, ‘The Land at the End of Our Toes‘ is more of a mixed bag. We should all have heard ‘Stingin’ Belle’ by now, and it feels like a genuine successor to ‘The Captain’, with the rallying call of bagpipes heralding the opening to the second half. As it wears on, it becomes evident this is the superior side of the album, through its more positive approach, with the more traditional Biffy-sounds of ‘Modern Magic Formula’ and ‘Woo Woo’, the mariachi rock of ‘Spanish Radio’, and the slow waltz/stomp of ‘Trumpet or Tap’. It’s by no means perfect, but the majority of the second side is an uplifting force majeure, executed succinctly by the biggest thing to emerge from Kilmarnock since the Killie Pie.
I wouldn’t dare call this Biffy’s finest album, not compared to the band’s underground era, and ‘Only Revolutions‘ was such an incredible album it was always to be a challenge to top that. My opinion of course, but outselling the competition is a serious statement that says this band haven’t yet peaked, in one sense at least. And while the jagged, angular days of old resonate only with those who truly can hark back to the early days of the phrase ‘Mon the Biffy!‘, there’s still enough of their integrity intact to show they haven’t sacrificed everything they forged to get to where they are, even though the compromises get larger with each release. I’m probably not the only who feels this may have worked better as two separate albums as well, given how tiring ‘Opposites‘ can feel when played front to back.
But for all its narks, it’s niggles, it’s flaws and fault lines, ‘Opposites‘ is still an all around great album, a textbook and occasionally daring approach that is all the more certain to cement Biffy’s place on the throne of British rock for some time to come.