Review Summary: Messy and convoluted, but it could have been a lot worse.
Ahhh Biffy Clyro. You know, there was once a time when this band had a bright future ahead of itself. The majority of the noughties-era documented a vibrant hunger coming from this Scottish three-piece; their influences were hardly ambiguous and they’ve never been particularly original in practice, yet, in spite of the derivative shortcomings, their execution always brought some semblance of distinction and individualism to the band’s sound. At times Biffy Clyro’s earlier works exhumed a raw immediacy now long lost in the ether – envisaging their own brand of groove-laden alt-rock tunes and eventually forming the apex of that concept by the time Puzzle
had arrived at the gates. Post-Puzzle
however, Biffy Clyro have been on the decline, shuffling from album to album using fleeting aspirations and a scattershot of arbitrary ideas and styles to make consecutively disjointed records – A Celebration of Endings
being no exception to the rule either. While Biffy Clyro have never quite attained the same creative glories as Muse, they seem to be following in their current footsteps of throwing anything at the wall and hoping it sticks. Recent years have seen Simon and co. engulfed in a directionless quest that has stripped away a little bit of their old identity with every passing iteration, and A Celebration of Endings
is the most extreme version of that mantra yet.
There’s a great sense of ambition at the heart of this LP – a lot here that should be acknowledged in their attempts – but through all the good intentions, surprisingly, A Celebration of Endings
still manages to come across so fervently mind-numbing and bland it’s hard to really gauge how they missed the mark this badly. The tone leaves a lot to be desired, stop-starting from one stylistic chapter after the next in this eleven-track experiment. A prime example of explaining this patchwork job is journeying from the alt-rock, Interpol-heavy riffing of “Weird Leisure” to the tacky “Tiny Indoor Fireworks” with all of its sugary, surface-level pop-punk sensibilities, to then transition into the optimistically decent rock ballad of “Worst Type of Best Possible”. Three very different styles being lumped together, lacking fluidity and cohesion. But even if we don’t focus on the album’s collective flow, the tracks themselves feel half-baked more often than not. “Worst Type of Best Possible” opens up with a red herring of booming and distorted guitar notes before hastily fizzling out with a mainstay of moody ambiences. The track itself is one of the better numbers here, but it’s a contrast that doesn’t quite work as well as it should, and similarly, there are a lot of moments like that which add to A Celebration of Endings
’ stubborn approach.
To sum up A Celebration of Endings
in a few words would be to say that the album puts a lot of focus on its ballads, whilst awkwardly trying to amalgamate their MO around that motif. The likes of “Space” and “The Champ” form a weird amalgam with the aforementioned, but it’s more distracting than engaging. Sometimes the experimentation works, “Instant History”’s anthemic chorus and its punchy electronics bring a Linkin Park, A Thousand Suns
vibe to the table, but the banal verses still manage to hinder the piquing potential. At this point, I can’t say A Celebration of Endings
’ quality is an unexpected surprise, as I’ve not really enjoyed an album from Biffy Clyro since Puzzle
. If you’ve managed to enjoy all of their works up to this point, I’m sure you’ll find something worthwhile here. Ultimately though, my criticisms fall on the directionless tone, clunky songwriting, and the substantial lack of their hard rock roots. What you’re left with here is a rather vanilla rock album with an overindulgence on ballads, whilst spray firing a number of jarring sub-genres into the mix in the hope it’ll form something new and interesting out of it all.
SPECIAL EDITION BONUSES: