A little knowledge of a band really helps you dig their music, at least that's what I believe, and in certain cases, this information might just save you from misjudging an album from first listen. This is a brief preface to my experience with this album.
I will be the first to admit that "The Vertigo Of Bliss" is not an easy first listen for somebody whose musical tastes haven't quite adjusted to the prog rock world. I found this album rummaging around in a bargain bin in 2009, and having very minimal knowledge of the band, I might have left it for a nice secondhand copy of a Radiohead EP. Instead, I bought it, and forgot about it for half a year. When I picked it up again, I recalled my foolish decision to spend 7 bucks on a CD I would never listen to. I wanted to know what I was in for before I let my imagination get the better of me, so I Googled them, and read up a bit. People ranted and raved about their thunderous, spiky, prog rock/alternative flair. I figured, since I was already getting into prog bands like Pink Floyd and more radio-friendly prog, like Muse, I could better understand the genre.
From the get go, the band makes it perfectly clear that this album was not quite the big hit, it was the album that had the hits, but was overlooked somewhat, similar to albums like Origin of Symmetry or The Bends, the big rocker that has soft spots, and feels like a natural band working in a natural environment, trying to find the niche that will work on radio, but will work better live. From what I read, this might've been the moment people got serious about the Biff.
Of course, having only read about them, I actually had to listen to them to be sure that the critics weren't yanking my chain. I figured I'd listen to it all the way through, from that I could distinguish the flow and process the album took to keep you captivated. The opening track is where the album shines the most. "Bodies In Flight", defines the Biff, from the nasty dropped D note and the shrieking voices backing it, it turns into an explosive alternative prog/punk bastard child, bending the world around it, turning itself inside out, flinging its weight to and fro. This turmoil IS Biffy Clyro.
Of course, five minutes later, it grinds itself to shreds, which is the trick where Biffy Clyro employs the keep you inside their world. They get you addicted to the song, then change it a second later to keep you on your toes. It's almost silly to actually say, but Biffy Clyro actually made the concept of everything evolving and moving beneath you appealing, something bands like The Mars Volta failed to do. And through and through, the album changes, living as it expands before you. "The Ideal Height" comes down from up high, with the stop and start mechanics so often exemplified in Ska music, it's tame enough to calm you down from the explosive opening. "With Aplomb" is one of the harder to classify songs here, opting out of the rock format for the almost goofy made-up "Prog Waltz". But eventually, it blooms into a pretty flower of a song, molding itself into a song that got lost in time, but speaks louder than the lyrics lead you to believe.
Of course Biffy Clyro has a curveball waiting for you after that breather. "A Day Of" follows the formula of Biffy songwriting "Law Of Clyro", where the power courses, and the vocals glide over the top while the drums and bass support the sharp, aggressive guitar. It's like "Bodies In Flight II", but instead winds down much faster. I like it, it's a great track, but it's not memorable enough, like most non-singles on rock albums. It is here you start to see how Biffy Clyro had a lot of material, but didn't quite execute it professionally enough. This album, having been recorded in one day, is a strong album, but tracks like "A Day Of" will give you something to jump around to, for all of ten minutes at least, then it's off to the next song. Which is something that takes away from the album.
"Liberate The Illiterate" isn't much different, until it really kicks in at the median, where it becomes sensitive, but sensible in a way. It's probably the least-prog song here, standard enough to fit in on any rock album, but because it's so normal, it stands out, and makes it enjoyable for those of us who get tired of hearing the same song rehashed over and over again. I was really getting into this album, and not quite "getting" it, as most people do.
"Diary Of Always" is where I understood this album for what it is. It's not prog, it's not metal, it is the top of the mountain, words cannot define the emotions you will feel when you listen to it. It's pure, it is delicate, and then, it's brazen. This song is what will make you a Biffy Clyro fan. This is the song that will leave you gasping for more.
And when it is over, you want it again, and again. And nothing will recapture that feeling, because you know that it was put smack-dab in the middle, where it floors you, and you keep listening for another copy of it. It's one of a kind, there's no repeat here.
So comparatively, the standard fare "Questions And Answers" will disappoint you. The opening chord sound angry, like a powerful desire was denied, and you so desperately want the one thing you cannot have. Instead, it winds down to a weak, mild, and bland mishmash of things that don't fit into the schizophrenic collective of ideas that is The Vertigo Of Bliss. I hate it, the one song on this album that falls flat on its face. Don't listen to it, make a sandwich or something while it's playing.
The second half of the album wound up being somewhat of a blur for me, because the best music was placed up front. And the crushing disappointment of "Questions And Answers" left a bitter taste in my mouth. The second half is largely overlooked by many fans. There are some truly remarkable songs here, you just need to work to understand. It's not quite prog rock, but it translates like prog. Imagine reading a really complicated book on something very interesting, but it could have been worded in a simpler manner.
But that is what made this album, the aptly titled "Vertigo Of Bliss", a fantastic album. It's not entry-level Biffy Clyro, it's living music, the kind of music that later generations will not speak of, because it's been hidden in time. What disappointed me was the fact that it's pretty much gone from the modern-day biffy Clyro setlist, some songs remain from this masterpiece, but it hasn't truly come into modern music the way albums like "Puzzle" or "Only Revolutions" have.
TL;DR? This album is great because it's raw, and it shows you what Biffy Clyro would later refine into modern rock.