Review Summary: Yet another step out of obscurity...
Biffy Clyro are a band with fundamentally 2 things: a lot of potential and a colossal amount of ambition. They’re like a young child repeatedly making furtive attempts to impress but often falling just short, and despite their best efforts they’ve never quite made it fully into the mainstream spectrum of music. 2007’s Puzzle was their first glimpse of true success, and it saw their transition from an awkward post-hardcore band from Scotland with tremendous beards to a polished pop act, and since they have consistently dropped top 20 hits. In 2010 Biffy came even closer to success when they were noticed by x-factor, who cruelly stole the Scottish trio’s strongest single to date and gave it to Matt Cardle – and act which finally gave Biffy Clyro the recognition they deserved but at the same time relinquished the little respect the rockier end of their fan base had for them. And here we are; 3 years later and Biffy Clyro are on the verge of becoming the biggest band in the country with the release of their latest album: Opposites.
On Opposites we see Biffy succumb to one of the oldest rock clichés: the double album. It is a bold decision, as while double albums are always an attempt at grandeur, they rarely come across as more than a band who thought they had more to say than they really did. Surprisingly, however, Biffy Clyro don’t fall into the biggest pitfall of releasing a double album and Opposites is shockingly low on filler. It is an album sure to please fans of their previous 2 LPs, older fans on the other hand, will be deeply disappointed. Make no mistake: this release has a clear purpose: to make the band even more popular, which will undoubtedly further alienate them from their hardcore roots.
The concept of the album is a relatively interesting one, with the first side supposedly being a darker outlook on things and the second side being the polar opposite. For me, as ever since first hearing Simon Neil’s chirpy Scottish accent on Bubbles Biffy have been essentially a feel good band for me (whether it’s what they mean to be or not) the second, more jovial part of the album is far more enjoyable but that’s not to say the first side isn’t good. Because it is. Unfortunately it is let down by the amount of generic pop-rock ballads. Opposite is the strongest of these, serving as the predecessor to Many of Horror from the previous album but with far more character. While the other slower songs, such as Bibilical and the Fog, aren’t necessarily bad, they just begin to get tedious as the album wears on as they have little musical or lyrical diversity. The high points on this side of the album, though, are astounding; for example Sounds like Balloons is a contender for the best song of the whole double album with its jaded riff and absurd lyrics.
The second side is probably the more experimental part; and whether it’s the bagpipe ending to Stingin’ Belle, the mariachi band on Spanish Radio, or the constantly changing time signatures on Victory Over the Sun it always seems to pay off. Victory Over the Sun is the upcoming single from the band, and deservedly so – it’s bouncy, odd time verses and heavier choruses push it into the same bounds as the best songs released by the band. The other high point on this latter part of the album is the underrated Accident Without Emergency, despite not even making the single disc edition of the album it’s remarkably uplifting and entertaining.
So, against all the odds, the Scottish underdogs have realised a generally solid (and at points incredible) double album with less low points than previous albums, despite having more songs. It is a huge stepping stone for the band which will surely lift them yet further into the mainstream eye and give them the respect and fame they are rightfully owed.