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Biffy Clyro - Opposites (Album Review)

Monday, 28 January 2013 Written by Ben Bland
Biffy Clyro - Opposites (Album Review)

Iíll start with an admission. Biffy Clyro are the band that changed my life. You wouldnít be reading this review without them. They sparked in me a passion for music that has only grown since the day I first bought 'Infinity Land' (in the St. Albans branch of HMV in case you were interested) as an impressionable thirteen year-old. This Scottish trio not only made music that I found immeasurably appealing, they seemed like three ordinary guys who were prepared to sweat it out for long-overdue success. Thatís what they did. Fast forward a few years and Biffy Clyro are the biggest guitar band in Britain, besides Muse. They have earned their success through sheer hard work and dedication to their craft. 2007ís 'Puzzle' and its follow up, 2009ís 'Only Revolutions', may have lacked a bit of the raw excitement of their early material but Biffy Clyro still had a discernible character that was all their own. Their move away from awkward post-hardcore was not selling out, as some would claim; it was just a natural progression of the bandís sound. Biffy moved into creating stadium-sized rock with a heart and a soul, whilst retaining a very real personality that continued to set them apart from lame posturers such as All Time Low and You Me at Six.

ImageThat is until now. The ironically named, for reasons that will become apparent later, 'Opposites' is a mush of an album that largely lacks any of this distinct personality. This is a band poised for superstardom, a level of fame reached via their own delightfully unique path, and all of a sudden, at the final hurdle, they seem to have forgotten what made them tick in the first place. To put it simply, 'Opposites' is by far the least inspired and interesting Biffy Clyro release to date. Where once the band relished in taking the less travelled route to the anthemic now they sound confused and, at some points, almost disinterested by the music they are making.

The most obvious problem with this record is its length. Eighty minutes isnít particularly long by my standards. Iím never happier than when stretched out with the two hour long 'The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid', for example, but here eighty minutes feels like a marathon. There simply is nowhere near enough quality material on 'Opposites' to justify its absurd status as a double album. Thereís plenty of half-decent ideas, but with the exception of a few tracks there really isnít enough going on to make this record consistently exciting over both discs. The fact that this is the bandís least varied release to date is largely to blame.

Call me a pedant if you will, but you would expect a record called 'Opposites' to feature two discs of distinct personality but instead you get two where the songs are completely interchangeable. Very occasionally there is a song that is slightly heavier or softer than the others, but for the most part this is mid-paced hard-rock all the way. At least Foo Fighters had the decency to divide their equally ludicrously overlong 'In Your Honour' into electric and acoustic discs. Here itís just two discs of Biffy Clyro doing their best impression of, erm, latter day Biffy Clyro with songwriting ambition being substituted for the tactic of sticking an unnecessary bit of extra instrumentation on to every other track to make it sound like they are trying to be different.

The worst moments of all are of a twofold nature. Firstly there are the tracks where Biffy sound like they could be absolutely anyone at all; something they could never be accused of previously. 'The Fog' and 'Pocket', in particular, have stripped away everything that has always made Biffy the band they are, lacking any aspect of the bandís own unique identity. Heartbreaking though this is, perhaps more troublingly are the times when Biffy sound as if they know they are losing said identity. Lead single 'Black Chandelier' is steaming along like a pleasant, if unremarkable, pop rock track when a totally unnecessary Ďheavyí section is tagged in almost as homage to the bandís older sound. If Biffy Clyro are so secure in their current musical surroundings, as made seemingly clear by the lyrics of album standout 'The Jokeís on us', why do they feel the need to incongruously include such sections? Do they think they can win back the pathetic ex-fanboys who moan about the fact they donít play 'Convex, Concave' at every gig by including such elements at points when they are totally out of place?

At times they do recapture the vigour of previous efforts. 'Sounds like Balloons' is deliciously off-kilter. 'The Jokeís on us' and 'Modern Magic Formula' are riff monsters. 'Opposite' is a plaintively affecting ballad, and 'Victory Over the Sun' is a glorious anthem akin to the bandís very best. Most of the time, however, 'Opposites' submits to being completely lacklustre. The band sound lost in territory that was previously familiar on the likes of 'A Girl and His Cat' or 'Little Hospitals'. On the rare occasions in which they attempt to slightly broaden their palate, meanwhile, as on opener 'Different People', they show such a lack of commitment that they end up quickly regressing back to well-worn paths. In all seriousness, most of the tracks here sound like they belong as b-sides, consigned to the territory of curiosity. Instead they make up the bulk of this grossly overweight record.

Very few moments are explicitly terrible, but Biffy Clyro show such a lack of willingness to surge forward in new directions, or even to properly cement old ones, that 'Opposites' eventually registers more as a record of vapidity than anything else. This is a disturbing example of how sitting on the fence can result not only in a loss of excitement, but even of heart and soul. One is left with the very distinct impression that, after all they have been through, Biffy Clyro now find themselves lost at sea.

'Opposites' is out now via 14th Floor. Biffy Clyro tour the UK in March and April with support from City & Colour.

Biffy Clyro UK & Ireland Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed March 20th 2013 - Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle upon Tyne
Thu March 21st 2013 - LG Arena, Birmingham
Fri March 22nd 2013 - Motorpoint Arena Cardiff, Cardiff
Sat March 23rd 2013 - Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield
Mon March 25th 2013 - Manchester Arena, Manchester
Tue March 26th 2013 - BIC, Bournemouth
Thu March 28th 2013 - O2 Dublin, Dublin
Fri March 29th 2013 - Odyssey Arena, Belfast
Sun March 31st 2013 - AECC, Aberdeen
Mon April 1st 2013 - SECC, Glasgow
Wed April 3rd 2013 - O2 Arena, London

Click Here to Compare & Buy Biffy Clyro Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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