Review Summary: This is how you flip the script
Biffy Clyro is a band that has always felt like they’re a few missing puzzle pieces away from creating a masterpiece. While there are diehard followers who will most assuredly disagree with that sentiment, it’s still tough to crown anything they’ve done as truly one-of-a-kind. Their brand, for better or worse, has always been comprised of anthemic/bombastic pop-rock, with some post-hardcore and other alternative rock influences sprinkled throughout for good measure. At their best they’ve recalled Mean Everything to Nothing
era Manchester Orchestra, and at their worst they’ve sounded like The Resistance
era Muse. It’s not the genre in which they reside that has clipped their wings so much as it is their indecisiveness, however; albums – especially recent ones – have bounced carelessly between cheesy synth-pop and laughable attempts at a return to heavier aesthetics. It’s rarely outright awful, but it’s also instilled very little confidence in this particular reviewer that they could ever sound as raw as they did on 2003’s The Vertigo of Bliss
again, or as earnest and heartfelt as they did during specific cuts from 2009’s Only Revolutions
. As with many of their peers, Biffy Clyro’s post-2010 output has just been sort of…there
For all these reasons, The Myth of the Happily Ever After
is an exceedingly pleasant surprise. Not only does Biffy Clyro sound more inspired than ever – both lyrically and musically – but there is also a noticeable return to so many of the things that made this band so likeable from its onset. The songwriting, for starters, is much tighter than the meandering electronic-pop ballads we’ve come to expect as of late. We get ‘A Hunger In Your Haunt’, which is biting and deliciously bitter, with Simon Neil barking out verses that wouldn’t have sounded so compelling sung with any less urgency: “It's been dark a while so where's the fucking dawn? / Wisdom no morе, eloquence no morе / All I loved has broken down and gone to seed.” They really double down on the aggressively bleak lyrics throughout The Myth of the Happily Ever After
, sporting lines like “In this universe we're trolls / Happy just to torch shit / Born to scorch your homes” and “Life couldn't be better / I will ignore all of the bodies piled up at my door / All my convictions, they soften the blow / Softened for no one but me / This is how we fuck it from the start.” For a band that has developed something of a softer reputation over the last several years, this
is how you flip the script and immediately re-engage your audience.
All this boiling anger is still laced with satisfying doses of melody, though. ‘Denier’ – which is angsty and punkish but also super romantic – features a simple but highly effective choral hook amid its barrage of percussion: “Say that you care for me, you make me feel like anything is possible / I need somebody to love, I need somebody to care for and it's you.” Elsewhere, the band threads its pop inclinations through some unexpectedly mighty crescendos, like the triumphant chorus that sprawls across the back half of ‘Errors In The History of God’, all amid a storm of winding riffs: “There's a mystery at large, and the story should be beautiful / I'm ready to explode…We're errors in the history of God.” It’s as if Biffy Clyro have finally accessed that happy medium between heavy rock/post-hardcore/punk and overall accessibility; whereas in the past they have traditionally erred too far on the side of radio-friendliness, The Myth of the Happily Ever After
sees the band’s instrumentation and songwriting vision finally keeping up with its pop ambition. The results are beautifully intense.
As Biffy Clyro hammer us with this intoxicating blend of tune-sense and refreshing raucousness, it seems that they’ve located the missing pieces to their puzzle. The Myth of the Happily Ever After
still isn’t flawless – songs like ‘Separate Missions’ and ‘Existed’ are still far too tidy and groomed-for-radio – but they’re rapidly closing in on their own version of alt-rock perfection. Whether or not they’ll eventually put the whole picture together is anyone’s guess, but in the meantime, The Myth of the Happily Ever After
serves as an excellent and shockingly ambitious outing from a band that seemed to be trending in all the wrong directions not long ago. With this album, they’ve reclaimed control of their story.