It could have been a wonderful year
Instead we might not make it to the end
Everybody cares / But nobody knows
What It Sounds Like: Passionate, energy-filled alternative rock from Scotland.
I have two favorite bands. Feeder and Biffy Clyro. Seeing as this is Biffy’s first record since 2009’s mind-blowingly-wonderful Only Revolutions, would you think that I would be excited to review it?
Excited is an understatement. This isn’t even a single record (well, there is a single disc version, but who would waste their money on that?). It’s two records, back to back, with ten songs each, for a total of twenty. The first ten come in the form of the album The Sand At The Core Of Our Bones, while the second ten are given to us through The Land At The End Of Our Toes. Twenty songs in total – it’s a one hour and twenty minute mammoth.
Now, let be honest here. Expectations are set high. Very high. Unthinkably high. On top of this, Biffy want to give us a double album? Expectations go through the roof. They are assured to not be met. When you hit breakthroughs like Only Revolutions, how do you follow it up?
How is Jimmy Eat World ever going to follow up Futures?
How was Oasis ever going to top (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?
I have faith in Biffy Clyro. Did they pull it off…at all?
The quick, but undefining answer, is “no”, and probably holds that way to most of their fans. But it’s a completely unfair statement. Opposites is not as good as Only Revolutions simply because it is not Only Revolutions. When you experience perfection (as we did in 2009), you can’t expect a repeat – what would even live up to it? What kind of sonic blasts could come from your stereo that would actually help it live up to the unrealistic and unreachable expectations you have set for it? Step away from 2009 and judge this on what it is by itself.
Because what it is, is this: a fantastic set of songs, still poised to be one of the year’s best.
Old school fans have cried foul for years, ever since Puzzle was released in 2007, and the band started moving into a more accessible sound, with less of the experimental variations/chord structures and time changes that were prominent throughout their earlier career. “Sellout, Sellout!”. Shut your faces. There’s a season for everything. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if their next record was more of a “return to their roots”. Those blind so-called fans are going to reject this record with an even harsher voice, because it’s probably their most accessible record yet.
We’ve had two singles so far; Black Chandelier and Biblical.
Black Chandelier is the perfect single, without question. It begs for rock radio. A mid-tempo verse gives way to a slightly revved up pre-chorus, while the chorus explodes with stadium-ready power. Calculated? Probably. Executed? No question. They want to appeal to a broad audience, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Simon still brings his signature lyrics to the forefront:
It feels like we’re ready to crack
These days / you and I
When it’s just the two of us / only the two of us / I could die
You left my heart like an abandoned car
Old and worn / I don’t use it all
But I used to be free…
Second single Biblical follows the same formula – mid tempo verses exploding into huge power-ballad choruses. Simon is all about some lost love, but it’s the undeniable base of so much music anyways – we all crave the love of another and sing about it when she leaves. Baby if you could would you go back to the start? / Take any fresh steps or watch it all fall apart / again he sings in the opening lines. Tug at those heartstrings! It’s worth stating again that Simon is a great lyricist. He always finds new ways to sing about old things. Another example in the chorus:
You gave me magical / I gave you wonderful
Cut that invisible cord / or I’ll starve you
Of what’s understandable
Let’s make immeasurable moves
To the left
Or the right
But not central ’cause
You gave me magical
I gave you wonderful
Let’s make this biblical
And hang from our invisible cords
It’s such an expansive record – how to you even choose out of the eighteen remaining songs which ones to mention and which ones to let you (hopefully) discover on your own? A Girl And His Cat, Woo Woo, and Little Hospitals are sure-fire attempts at hits for people that want something that sounds somewhat closer to some of their older material. On the other end, Pocket is a straight out-of-left-field pop/rock hit that people who swear by The Vertigo Of Bliss (record two) are going to hate (because they’re closed minded), but I love. Easy to swallow; easy to sing along.
Biffy released a live record in 2011 entitled Revolutions: Live At Wembley, selling out the huge Wembley Arena in London. It’s completely clear on this record that they want to be as big as U2 – they want anthems. Massive ones. The likes of Accident Without Emergency and Picture A Knife Fight are set to be perfect closers – with the streamers coming down from the ceiling and the pyrotechnics making the people in the nosebleeds seats feel the heat as Simon, James, and Ben wail away on their instruments and make more noise than you could ever imagine a three-piece making.
There really is great differentiation in this record – a lesson in energy filled tracks that don’t sound the same.
More rockers: Stingin’ Belle, Modern Magic Formula, The Joke’s On Us.
More ballads: The Thaw, Opposite.
Things that don’t fit in either category: The Fog, Skylight, Spanish Radio.
Geez, there’s only four tracks I haven’t mentioned yet. Might as well just say their names! Different People, Sounds Like Balloons, Victory Over The Sun, Trumpet Or Trap.
There. They’re mentioned even if only for the sake of mentioning, but they are certainly worth the mention when it comes down to it! Throw all the other songs out, put those last four on an EP, and you would still having a winning record. That’s how good this is.
When I’m tempted (just tempted; this isn’t concrete) to say that my favorite track on the record is a ballad, you know it’s something special. I love my guitars revved up – power chords and ripping solos. This isn’t the case with track four off of The Sand…, titled simply, Opposite. In need of some desperate relief? Heartbreak? This chorus will leave you breathless. The orchestration is wonderful.
All said and done, I am exorbitantly happy with this record. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Don’t be one of those people who can go out, have a wonderful steak, and then always compare every other steak that they have for the rest of their life to “that one time where they had such an amazing one”, because no other steak will ever compare. You’ll always be disappointed. They’re simply different.
Don’t be one of those people who can go out, have a wonderful relationship, and then if it ends, always compare any other relationship that they have for the rest of their life to “that one time where they had such an amazing one”, because then no other relationship will ever compare. You’ll always be disappointed. They’re simply different.
Don’t be one of those people who listens to an awesome record by Biffy Clyro, and then always compare every other Biffy Clyro record to “that one time where they had such an amazing one”, because guess what?
They’re simply different.
Opposites has zero trouble standing on its own two feet.
I’m completely satisfied.
If you had to listen to two tracks off of The Sand At The Core Of Our Bones: Black Chandelier / Opposite
If you had to listen to two tracks off of The Land At The End Of Our Toes: Pocket / Picture A Knife Fight
If you had to listen to two tracks off of the entire Opposites record: Are you that pressed for time? Listen to those above four.