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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