Album Review: Biffy Clyro – “Opposites”

2009 saw the breakthrough (everywhere but in America, that is) of the Scottish alternative band Biffy Clyro with their acclaimed album Only Revolutions. Following 3 1/2 years of touring and recording the band has released the long-awaited double album follow-up, Opposites.biffy-clyro-opposites-cover-reveal

Fans of the last two studio albums are surely rejoicing, while some long time fans may be hesitant give this one a go. 

Regardless, thanks to the help of YouTube I have heard the new album almost two months before it’s US release and have discovered that there is a little something for everybody here.

I initially discovered Biffy Clyro just before the release of their album Puzzle, which marked the beginning of the band’s migration towards a more “commercial” sound. I then went backwards and fell head-over-heels for their first three albums which were much more of a new-prog or experimental alternative sound than anything that followed. 2009 came as did their most mainstream album, which further distanced themselves from their older material. Then just as I felt like I had finally accepted that the band I fell in love with so long ago was dead and gone, Biffy Clyro releases this double album Opposites, also known as The Land At the End of Our Toes and The Sand At the Core of Our Bones which had me interested again.

What appreciate about this album is the return of Biffy Clyro’s quirkiness on a larger scale. From awkward rhythm in “Sounds Like Balloons,” to the odd titles of “A Girl and His Cat” and “Picture a Knife Fight,” and the inclusion of outside instruments like bagpipes in “Stingin’ Belle” and mariachi horns in “Spanish Radio,” if really feels like Biffy is trying to hark back to their old days. Only Revolutions did have some weirdness to it but for the most part it was straight-forward pop rock anthemns, which they do well. I was also glad to hear that Simon Neil’s complex lyrics/borderline nonsense poetry is still as odd as ever.

Truth be told, this is first time that I would say the band has nailed their Pre-Puzzle sound in about 6 years. If songs like “Modern Magic Formula,” “Victory Over The Sun” and the aforementioned “Sounds Like Balloons” were not so polished, they could fit right in on The Vertigo of Bliss and/or Blackened Skies.

When I accepted that the old Biffy was done, I did embrace their newer sound. Only Revolutions has some great pop rock songs like “Bubbles,” “The Captain,” and “Mountains.” It’s no surprise that Opposites is still that sort of sound for the most part. “Stingin’ Belle” is to Opposites what “That Golden Rule” was to Revolutions. “Different People,” “Black Chandelier,” “The Joke’s On Us” and all more would be stand out tracks if included one album ago.

What is troublesome, however, is the bands over-use of gang vocal sing along choruses. While the band has always used massive choruses and catchy moments, even in their more aggressive chaotic songs like “There’s No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake from 2004’s Infinity Land, Opposites is consistent in the utilization of massive gang vocal choruses. This fact is fine, I suppose, but I think it makes the part of a song most listeners come back for stale and not special after 20 songs utilizing the same trick.

The band may have also tried too hard to recreate the success of their ballad “Many of Horror.” Tracks like “Skylight,” “Accident Without Emergency,” “Opposite,” “The Fog,” and “The Thaw” all are fine songs, but they feel like the band is trying to get these into the trailer of the next epic romantic movie you’re not going to see. I mean, did you actually see Charlie St. Cloud? They aren’t bad, they are just sort of tracks constructed entirely of obvious musical choices.


My final complaint would be that bassist James and drummer Ben Johnston both have awesome voices that were key elements of what I enjoyed about early Biffy Clyro. The new album has them simply backing up lead singer/guitarist Simon Neil in the grand choruses. I realize Neil is the LEAD singer, but Ben was the star of the Blackened Sky song “57” so it’s not like the idea of getting them on a mic is unheard of.

Perhaps, the sheer quantity of songs released gave me more to love about this new album, and I did love more that the last album. I mean, there are really only two songs out of 20 tracks that I will skip when I get my physical copy on March 12th, which is really good. It took me a while to get into the last release, but this one was an easy one to get into, once I got over the fact that the choruses are all pretty much the same.

So after all of that rambling, I can say that Biffy Clyro won me back. I was really nervous that this album would be way more stereotypical pop rock songs, and yes, they are here, but they seem to be Biffy-ing their sound again, which is awesome.

Pick up Opposites now, if you are most places in the world, or grab it on March 12th if you are in the United States like me.

_Daniel Cordova
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