Review Summary: A perfect introduction to pre-Puzzle Biffy, and an example of amazing songwriting. Except The Ideal Height1 of 2 thought this review was well written
Chances are, if you keep up to date with the British rock scene, you’ll have heard of this lovely bearded Scottish trio. Bursting onto the scene in 2007 with amazing major label debut Puzzle, the band were a force to be reckoned with. Combining powerful and quirky guitar melodies with emotive vocals, the album quickly became a critical and commercial success.
What a lot of people don’t realise is the three equally, if not more, amazing albums that came before it. Blackened Sky (2002), The Vertigo of Bliss (2003) and Infinity Land (2004) made them one of Britain’s best kept secrets. After Infinity Land, the band split with label Beggar’s Banquet and signed to Roadrunner. After the success of Puzzle, as the band still had one album left for Banquet, the label quickly put this album together to cash in on their success. Needless to say, the band and fans were pissed off with it. I, guiltily, got this, but later downloaded all of their other albums anyway.
1. 27 (3:27)
– The song starts straight off with a nice drum beat before soft and gentle guitar plucking comes in. Frontman Simon Neil sings in a light and gentle voice. One section of this has the guitar sounding muted with Neil trying his hand at falsetto, which you’ll either like or not. Halfway through, Neil’s voice picks up in a lovingly strained and emotional way before the song gets incredibly heavier, with guitars and dense drums pounding at you with all the band’s voices shouting at loud volumes. It really is a powerful moment. After this, the guitars remain distorted, with Neil’s voice still remaining as emotional and powerful. 5/5
2. Justboy (4:23)
– The song starts off with a full-blown rock part, before the guitar becomes a little chime, with the whole band harmonising on vocals. This bit I’m not too fond of, as they sound bored to me. After this, Neil’s vocals are left, and they still sound pained as ever. The chorus is traditional Biffy material, anthemic, powerful and uplifting, with the brilliant lyric “I don’t believe in anything, that’s the message in your eyes.” After the second chorus, the guitars become more distorted, and the drums more complex for an instrumental part before Neil’s vocals come along in another anthemic part 4/5
3. 57 (3:22)
– As before, the song starts off with a full-blown rock part, with another hushed part with Neil’s lush vocals. The song picks up, with Neil delivering probably his most emotional vocals so far. The song then cuts off, leaving the infamous “do-do-do-do, do-do-do-do”. Drummer James Johnston then gets his hand on vocals, shouting “And I try not to feel”, with Simon finishing “this music’s for real”, bassist Ben Johnston simply shouting “Hey”. The guitars remain distorted throughout the next verse. The song climaxes, with Neil and Ben exchanging “And over”, “HEY!” and Neil singing “It’s alright”. All in all, this is just a perfectly written pop song designed for festival singalongs. 5/5
4. Joy.Discovery.Invention (3:38)
– The last song from their debut Blackened Sky. It starts off with a lonely acoustic guitar and Neil’s hushed vocals. The rest of the band then sing “Get up, get up, get over”. Neil sings “Take me to your blackened sky”, with guitar plucking and James’ brilliant drumming. To me, it reminds me of an avalanche. After another “Take me to your blackened sky”, the guitars pick up before the anthemic rock part comes in, with the heaviest moment yet. It has an almost emotional sound, before the vocals come in. The vocals are at their most raw yet here, with Neil shouting “If you want it get it, come and break my heart”. It is a powerful and breathtaking moment. The song remains anthemic and emotional for the rest of the song until it’s just a lone guitar and Neil’s falsetto. 5/5
5. Toys, Toys, Toys, Choke, Toys, Toys, Toys (4:04)
– The first song off The Vertigo of Bliss. Already you can tell, the songs are going to be different here. It starts off with a dark, menacing guitar strumming, before cymbals sound to deliberately discordant guitars. Neil’s vocals have a distant, raw and unsettling delivery to them. The bass has a buzzing tune, with distant falsetto backup vocals singing “You suffer” (no Napalm Death reference intended). The song repeats itself, before the song takes an unexpected turn. Suddenly, the distortion to the guitar is turned up past 11, to an incredible build-up, cymbals crashing in your ears. Then, without warning, all three members of the band are screaming unintelligibly in your ears, left and right. Then the amazing chorus comes in, towering and emotional, and still keeping the dark edge of the song. Neil’s vocals have a tired and raw sound to them. The chorus then cuts off straight to lone guitar chimes, with brief drum and bass interludes. It’s these unexpected changes that keep you on your toes, now a trademark of Biffy’s material. The guitar then becomes distorted with Neil’s vocals sounding dark as ever. The chorus then comes back, Neil sounding even more tired and raw than before. After the chorus, the instruments pound away at you, with the band screaming in the background. Unfortunately, as this is an edit of the album version, you don’t get to hear the 1:12 instrumental afterwards, but no biggie. 5/5
6. The Ideal Height (3:20)
– Unfortunately, after the previous awe-inspiring song, we come across the most forgettable tune on the album. It starts off with a repetitive guitar tune, with Neil’s vocals sounding completely average. The chorus is again, completely forgettable, with backup vocals of “do, do-do, do”. The song does get better. After the second chorus, the song quietens for a moment, before the band shouts “ME!”, and the guitar gets more distorted. Unfortunately, it is still only slightly better than average. The band does the old quiet-loud dynamic, with Neil singing “Whoa-oa-oa-oa, the ideal height”. I just can’t think of anything more to say, this song is just so damn average. 2.5/5
7. Questions and Answers (4:04)
– The “hit” song of the album. It starts off with about 15 seconds of dense feedback build-up, before the bass is just left, and the drums kick in. Neil’s vocals sound quiet and lost. After the verse, Neil sings in a distinctly youthful sound “You’ve got all these great answers to all these great questions”. There’s an instrumental part, with plenty of quiet and loud dynamics, before Neil sings emotionally “Take advantage of her time”. Neil again sings the refrain, with Ben singing “Yet I feel her passing me by”. After this, the song repeats the instrumental bit, with Neil’s distinctly quirky sounding guitar. We hit the refrain again, and the last 20 seconds is the song at its most heavy. 3.25/5
8. Eradicate the Doubt (4:25)
– Ah, here we go. The song that solidified Biffy’s status as one of my favourite bands. The song that managed to become one of my favourite songs of all time. And I’m sure it will have the same effect on you. The song starts off with discordant sounding guitar with brief interludes of distortion that manages to sound mountainous without being anthemic. Not just yet, anyway. Neil’s vocals sound breathy. After the verse, the song becomes full-blown rock, with the drums sounding distinct and dense against the wall of distortion. Neil’s vocals are powerful and raw, with the band members equally as breath-taking on backup, with the band at its most anthemic yet. The guitar frequently has almost “rattle-like” qualities. The song then quickly reverts back to how it was at the beginning. The song then, again, goes into full rock mode. However, we skip past the chorus, with Neil’s vocals sounding strained and weak, yet still powerful. After this, we go back to the chorus. After this though, we get to the best part of the album. Neil pounds away at his guitar, at a part where its very hard not to headbang to. At one point, Neil shrieks his heart out in the background, a moment that made him one of my favourite vocalists to this date. The song then goes quiet, Neil’s vocals one again wispy and breathy. The instruments kick in again, with the band shouting “TAKE me to your heaaarrrttttt”, with nothing but full conviction. The rest of the song is a heavy and and anthemic instrumental. Amazing, beautiful and inspiring 10/5
9. There’s No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake (4:59)
– The first Infinity Land song and, without a single doubt, the most strange and progressive song on the compilation. It starts off with about 3 seconds of brooding build-up, before a strange-sounding guitar before it breaks into an incredibly heavy and blistering moment, with the band pounding away at their instruments. Then, Neil screams at the top of his utter lungs completely unintelligible utter nonsense. It’s a completely weird yet still amazing opening. Then the band joyously singing “Take extra special care”. The weird guitar comes back, before the song becomes almost pop rock, Neil happily singing “Take on the world at their own game. You might win and succeed again”. The guitar almost “beeps” with a threatening edge before the distortion kicks in. Then whatever joy their was fades, with the band harmonising complete nonsense again that I won’t bother to find a meaning to. Then Neil and James sing “You twist, you turn, wrapping around me, wrapping around Me”, with Neil sounding panicky and James shrieking. The band then harmonise against... twinkling... The previous thirty seconds repeat. The band then cracks open a dark and heavy instrumental for about another 30 seconds, each moment heavier then the last. The band then sing “You’re facing a pointless task and it’s the same thing”. There is then about 5 seconds of incredible distortion with James shrieking “AND IT’S THE SAME THING, AND IT’S THE SAME THING”. We then get twenty seconds of heavy instrumental. 5/5
10. Glitter And Trauma (4:03)
– Probably the band’s most famous song before Puzzle came along. It starts off with dense drums and strange “guitar beeps”, before a heavy wall of sound. We then get a strange and wonderfully discordant guitar riff, with Neil’s vocals occasionally going into falsetto. The song then goes into pop rock, with lush guitar melodies. The song then goes into reverse for the chorus, with incredibly light guitar and harmonised vocals. We then go back to the subtly dark verse. After the “pop rock” bit, we then get a moment of guitar strumming and James distinct “avalanche-like” drums, before we we get the same chorus only with a heavy wall of sound instead. The guitars sound heavy and powerful as for the rest of the song, with a strangely uplifting vibe. After the final chorus, we then get what we least expect. 20 seconds of unintelligible screaming. 5/5.
11. My Recovery Injection (3:10)
– This one is a grower. We start off with strange sounding guitar and buzzing bass, with Neil’s average vocals. There is a brief heavy moment, before another rather average chorus. After the second chorus, there is a moment of brooding yet lush guitar, before a strange “call and receive” instrumental, which picks up in heaviness, before Neil sings “Nothing matters anymore” against wall of sound. The rest of the band eventually sing “You say nothing” in back-up. A rather average track to start off with, but it picks up a lot after the second chorus. 3.5/5
12. Only One Word Comes to Mind (3:11)
– The last track. It starts off with guitar strumming that sounds electric and acoustic at the same time. Neil’s vocals sound youthful and emotional. The guitars sound a tad more distorted in the chorus. In the second verse, Ben sings along with Neil. There is an almost conclusive sound to the song. Before the chorus, the guitars turn quiet, with James’ distinct drums. After the second chorus, there is a lengthy instrumental which later picks up in distortion. Then, all “pop rock” vibes the song had is crushed when there is a brief second of incredibly ominous bass. Then the song suddenly turns into one of the most heaviest parts on the album before descending into dark feedback. It’s an absolute shame that this is the radio edit, as you miss the beginning (with lone guitar and Neil’s vocals at their highest, and the end, with features crushing instruments and Neil shrieking). 5/5
Overall, this is a perfect introduction to pre-Puzzle Biffy, and an example of amazing songwriting. It’s an absolute shame that after Biffy released the magnificent Puzzle, they went and pissed me off by releasing exclusive single Mountains, which managed to even more average than The Ideal Height.
Biffy Clyro are:
• Simon Neil – guitar, vocals
• Ben Johnston – bass, vocals
• James Johnston – drums, vocals
• Chris Sheldon – producer