Plumbiferous Media

Only Revolutions – Biffy Clyro

Nov 22nd 2009
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Only Revolutions - Biffy ClyroBiffy Clyro
Only Revolutions
Score: 73

Scottish rock band Biffy Clyro released its fifth LP on November 9th. The album, Only Revolutions, follows much of Biffy Clyro’s earlier work as an interesting and often confusing amalgamation of hardcore rock, often touching upon principles of math rock, with concepts normally reserved for pop. Clearly one of the bands poppiest albums, Only Revolutions is engaging and dynamic, but at the same time, has a number of less than interesting pitfalls.

The melodic cry of Biffy Clyro frontman Simon Neil’s voice, largely responsible for both the distinct sound of the band’s earlier music as well as their characteristic energy, is certainly present on Only Revolutions, if not at quite full force. That’s not to say that Neil’s voice is badly used, as it’s certainly not, but as Biffy Clyro has refined its sound over the years, with Only Revolutions as the latest step in that direction, Neil’s voice has become more muted, especially as compared with Biffy Clyro’s early work. But muted or not, he hasn’t lost the energy that has sustained Biffy Clyro through five albums and fourteen years.

With Only Revolutions, Biffy Clyro hasn’t given up their peculiar style of lyrics – alternately simple and deeply strange (think “Get Fucked Stud” from Biffy Clyro’s last album, which includes the lines “Get fucked stud / It’s time to kill / Only you see the sun on amphetamines”). Only Revolutions opens with “The Captain,” on which Neil sings “Help me be captain / Of our crippled disguises.” It’s hard to believe that there’s not a message behind that – though when a few lines later, “I’ve swallowed half an hourglass / So now the landscape is swollen up” follows, bewilderment may be as acceptable a reaction as interest. Perhaps the most interesting track (and certainly weirdest lyrically) is the buzzing “Born on a Horse,” which Neil begins by explaining the pronouncement of “aluminum,” following that a bit later with “I’ve never had a lover who’s my sister or my brother before.” Though this occasionally seems to stumble into inanity, it’s nothing less or more than characteristic of Biffy Clyro, and it’s part of what makes them unique (if occasionally off-putting).

The first track of Only Revolutions begins excellently with irregular percussion steadily resolving into an even beat, which is then joined by grandiose, fast descending chords, which repeat and transition into the first main section. And while that section doesn’t quite live up to the force of the intro, the track quickly builds back up to, and well above the level of the introduction. The adjacent track, “That Golden Rule,” ties multiple, extremely powerful sections together with unpredictable, brief transitions that highlight the speed of the track.

One has to wonder though, how the rest of the album can live up to the two, immensely powerful tracks. The answer, for the most part, is that it doesn’t. The third track, “Bubbles,” is so overwhelmed by poppiness that it ends up losing quite a bit of the power and direction of the previous tracks, and a number of later tracks, though technically strong, are simply not terribly memorable. However, the band does return from strong to excellent on tracks like “Cloud of Stink” and most notably, “Born on a Horse,” with its incredibly engaging bass line.

Only Revolutions is the logical progression for Biffy Clyro after their past four albums – a slightly poppier (though certainly still noisy) album with a bit less of the vaguely hardcore-inspired vibe about the roughest tracks. Biffy Clyro has definitely changed, but it’s not really for better or for worse. It’s just different. Only Revolutions would perhaps have benefited from more prominent use of Simon Neil’s vocals and a bit more variety on certain tracks, but it’s a solid album and a worthy successor to 2007’s Puzzle nevertheless.

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