Tuesday 29 January 2013

Biffy Clyro - Opposites

It’s a cliché, but there comes a time in the life of many bands where they feel the need to cross over to the mainstream.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, resulting in some successful pop-rock fusions.  It can, however, split audiences, with the “true fans” bemoaning a band that “sell out”. 

Perhaps the release of ‘Opposites’, the latest album from Scottish band Biffy Clyro, is an attempt to appease all of their fans.  Their 2009 album ‘Only Revolutions’ marked a clear change of pace, producing a number of top ten singles, a Mercury Prize nomination and newfound success, but the mainstream appeal had its detractors.  ‘Opposites’ is a double album, the two halves displaying (funnily enough) opposite styles – the post-hardcore/alt-rock of their earlier material and the pop-rock of recent times.

“Biffy are back”, is the initial response.  The first half of the album is a return to the big, rock ballads of ‘Only Revolutions’ – simple guitar patterns, heartfelt lyrics and added strings for extra epic appeal.  It quickly becomes apparent, however, that the band is constantly striving to repeat the success of Many of Horror.  There are some moments of intrigue that stand out: the spiky opening riff of Sounds Like Balloons and its harp interjections; the driving rhythms of The Joke’s On Us; the stabbing guitars of A Girl And His Cat.  Yet for every one of these tracks, there’s a Black Chandelier, an Opposite or The Thaw.  So often, the band relies on big choruses that lack invention.  Biblical reflects its title – it’s as epic a track as the band have ever produced but as it stands, in the context of the album, it’s just another underwhelming ballad.  ‘Opposites’ offers little that we haven’t heard before.

That is, until the second half which is, in part, a return to the Biffy of old.  The opening of Stingin’ Belle immediately brings a sense of urgency.  There’s more creativity on this half of the album, with shifting time signatures (Victory Over The Sun), new instruments (the horns of Spanish Radio, the bagpipes of Stingin’ Belle) and the generally more dissonant tone.  There are still moments of pure pop though – from the lighthearted pop-rock of Pocket, to Skylight whose synth lines and trudging electro beats sound more like Hurts.          

‘Opposites’ is therefore a fairly mixed bag of tracks that don’t quite hang together – the first half too safe, the second half disorientating and experimental. Can the band really appease all of their fans?  The Biffy of the future deserves another shot, if they can fuse together more convincingly their differing styles.  But the Biffy of the present has bitten off more than they can chew.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Sounds Like Balloons
* Modern Magic Formula
* Woo Woo

Listen: 'Opposites' is available now.