Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Opposites - Review

A few truths first.

  • I love Biffy Clyro.
  • Double albums are usually over bloated shite.
  • Getting Storm Thorgerson to do your album cover usually points to a certain type of record...  
Opposites is the final Biffy album of this particular three record arc, before they plan to strip things back for their next one, but this double album isn't the 'Snow Play' record Only Revolutions seemed to be leading them towards.  

The first three Biffy albums are a curious mesh of pounding prog metal, with very odd time signatures and dark words.  They're brilliantly different and it was a joy to discover the band just after the release of their second album.  Puzzle, their fourth record, took the best bits of those albums and tightened everything up.  It's probably my favourite album ever by anyone.  The slower stuff on Puzzle isn't emo relationship bollocks it's about Simon (lead singer and song writer)'s mother dying.  There's an honesty on Puzzle and live the songs just soar.  Only Revolutions has some great songs on it that live are the equal of anything on Puzzle but on record the whole thing (with the exception of Mountains and Bubbles) lacks something.  I've never really been able to put my finger on it, I still really like it, but it's not a patch on its predecessor.  I think probably it's less aggressive.

Which brings us to Biffy's sixth studio album.  The double.  

I was worried.  A concept album, that cover (beautiful as it is) and the thought that my favourite band might be slowly becoming Cold Play.

I was being a dick.

Opposites has allowed the band, over the twenty two songs to go back to being quirky.  Thank fuck.  So as well as the rock songs there's a mariachi band, a massive church organ, bag pipes and what sounds like a choir.  There's even room for Clint Mansell from Pop Will Eat Itself.  The concept album thing always sounded a bit odd.  The first half is darker for sure but as an album, sonically, it feels like one coherent piece.  Guitars sound urgent again, particularly on the heavier Modern Magic Formula, The Jokes on Us and the brilliantly titled A Girl and His Cat.  It's tracks like this that bear repeated listens, these have Biffy's signature scrawled all over them.  There's plenty here for the Only Revolutions crowd too though:  The Fog, Biblical and Victory Over the Sun could have been ripped from Revolutions, if it had been better.  The latter in particular keeps the urgent guitar sound with a great riff and crowd pleasing chorus. Personal favourite so far is probably Spanish Radio with the previously mentioned mariachi band.  Has to be a single surely.  Genius.

Is there a Many of Horror?  Yes and no I guess.  There's nothing as obvious I suppose.  The song Opposites is all kinds of lovely, but more grown up than Horror.  There's nothing here that's gonna end up on X-Factor.  *Throws street party*

Simon Neil has a way of making everything sound genuine and from the heart.  Even a line like ''is it trumpet or tap?" sounds earnest and full of meaning.  Your guess is as good as mine at what that meaning might be but that's always been the case with Biffy.  Are you cool as a porcupine?  Exactly.

I know it's ridiculous, but they've been (along with the Foos) my band since I first heard Questions and Answers ten years ago.  I know it's stupid to feel so proud of them, but fuck it, I do.  They did this the old school way, gigging and gigging and gigging.  Building up a fan base, an incredibly loyal fan base.    Opposites is a great album when it would have been so easy to have released another radio friendly Revolutions and rested on their laurels.  Instead we get a quirky rock album, a little softer than Puzzle, with some obvious Americanisms, not a criticism (see Pocket), that delivers on the promise of those awkward but brilliant first three albums.  This is where Biffy were supposed to end up.
The light leaves me terrified, I hate it when the darkness dies
Oh just go and fucking buy it.
★★★★★
(A not in the least bit bias review.  Get fucked stud.)