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biffyclyro opposites
Artist: Biffy Clyro
Title: Opposites
Genre: Alternative Rock
Release Date: 25th January 2013
Label: Warner Music

Album Review

Hailing from Kilmarnock, Scotland, the story of BIFFY CLYRO is one of the more interesting rags to riches stories of recent years. Starting life as grunge copyists, and opting for a deliberately awful name, as if to nip any pretensions of fame firmly in the bud, early BIFFY was confused, confusing, but never less than interesting. Three albums in and a steadily growing fan base, the extraordinary fourth album 'Puzzle' suddenly catapulted them into a whole new league. Seemingly amused by all the attention suddenly given them, interviews at the time were warm, affable and witty. It was impossible to dislike them, let alone ignore them. Genuine surprise at success, unlike the unconvincing self-deprecating moaning of Chris Martin at the time. And then things really took off. Fifth album 'Only Revolutions' was a revelation. Singles success with the likes of Mountains, a Mercury Music Prize nomination, even an unlikely number ‘One at Christmas’ with X-factor dullard Matt Cardle's cover of 'Many of Horror', all cemented their status as one of the fastest growing rock bands in the UK. So, where next? An album of covers? Early retirement? Solo projects? Or just continue on the same steady upwards trajectory? It could only be the latter. Fame, it seems, has neither bloated them or blown them off course.

New album 'Opposites' arrives, then, with weighty expectations. Released in two formats, including a double CD with DVD, it has the feel of an event about it. Alarmingly, the opening to first track 'Different People' has the dubious honour of sounding like FISH era MARILLION jamming with BIG COUNTRY, although thankfully once it settles down it's actually rather good. Present and correct are the trademark skittish BIFFY drumming and vocalist Neil Simon's unmistakeable voice, cloaked still in a mighty Scottish brogue. Like 'Black Chandelier' that follows, the song has an almost MOR feel to it, yet both are comfortably rescued by gorgeous melodies, and the kind of lighters aloft choruses that made the last two albums so memorable. And blandness is forever banished with wonderfully deadpanned lyrics such as “When it's just the two of us, and a cute little cup of cyanide”. 'Sounds Like Balloons' is more traditional BIFFY. A sparse, jagged guitar riff, driving the song towards another huge chorus, surely written with the big stages of the Summer festivals in mind. These are communal songs, for mass sing-alongs in fading light with impressive light shows and maybe a downpour or two. 'The Joke's On Us' is similar, short and to the point, it wastes nothing as it twists and turns around itself, and is sure to be a live favourite as the year unfolds.

Always inventive, throwing in unexpected lyrics, time changes, a chorus within a chorus, it's possible to imagine one band member suddenly exclaiming “We haven't had any Mariachi yet”. And so it is, on 'Spanish Radio', that we get Mariachi. It's not one of the best songs here, but you can't begrudge them digging deep and continuing to pull off surprises. 'Biblical' has a lovely plucked intro, and again, a gorgeous melody. Throw in some strings, and this is one of the standout tracks here. A drum change by the second minute, a swelling of the strings and the whole is propelled into something truly celebratory. “You gave me magical, I gave you wonderful” Mr Neil intones seductively, before deciding the song still isn't big enough, throwing in a “Woah Woah” chanted finale. All this in under four minutes. Muse should try it, instead of wanting to be QUEEN all the time. It's not all a success. 'Opposite' seems lazy by comparison, a ploddy, average slow-rock-by-numbers affair. Contrast it with the heavily echoed voice and piano and understated beauty of 'Skylight', and it feels totally out of place.

To prove they haven't gone soppy, however, 'Modern Magic Formula' sounds much more like old BIFFY, grungy, punchy, fast and shouty, even this succeeds in getting a memorable chorus shoehorned into its slightly mad verses. It's a lot of fun, light and dark shades and a breakneck ending proving just what an original and exciting rock band BIFFY CLYRO are. The album is rounded off nicely with two very contrasting songs. 'The Thaw' is a patient, slow-burner, elegantly structured and like many of the best songs on 'Opposites', always heading for an impressive finale. It could easily have been the album closer, and again at under four minutes, it leaves you wanting more. Always a good thing. But it wouldn't be BIFFY to end on such a sentimental note. So 'Picture A Knife Fight' concludes things, another sing-along chorus over huge guitars and a stomping beat. And as it reaches the finishing post, arms in the air and extremely pleased with itself, it just remains for Simon Neil to repeat the line “We've got to stick together”. And instantly, this huge forward thinking rock album is handed back to the people who made it possible, the fans, and it feels like a thank you as well as a call to arms. It's an inspired and fitting ending, celebrating the meteoric rise in fortunes for a band who once hoped their name would put people off. So far, that's the only part of the plan that hasn't worked.


01. Different People
02. Black Chandelier
03. Sounds Like Balloons
04. Opposite
05. The Joke's On Us
06. Spanish Radio
07. Victory Over The Sun
08. Biblical
09. Stingin' Belle
10. Skylight
11. Trumpet Or Tap
12. Modern Magic Formula
13. The Thaw
14. Picture A Knife Fight


Simon Neil – Vocals, guitars
James Johnston – Bass, vocals
Ben Johnston – Drums, vocals


Cover Picture

biffyclyro opposites


Music: 9
Sound: 9
Total: 9 / 10

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