Ciara McAlinden talks us through the Kilmarnock legends' latest album.
In 2016, Biffy Clyro offered us an album that didn’t quite hit the spot, and ever since A Celebration of Endings was announced in October last year, my hopes haven’t been high. After listening to the Kilmarnock trio’s latest release for two days straight, I truly stand corrected. The lads are back and proving that they still have the style, originality, and quirkiness that they mastered in their first six albums, whilst still renewing and evolving their sound. So, without further ado, let’s talk about the tunes.
In true Biffy tradition, the first track is a banger; if they know how to do one thing right, it’s how to open an album. North of No South throws us into the action with some muddy bass, unpredictable syncopation, a touch of shouty vocals, and of course, some therapeutic nihilism and spiritual confusion, harking back to the days of Puzzle and Only Revolutions. And of course, a pretty wee harmony brings in the new era.
The Champ eases its way into the album with some light violin and piano accompanying Simon Neil’s familiar voice. Neil has stated that this track is praising the younger generation for rejecting the standards set by unmalleable old folk, which I always appreciate. I can’t say this track is a head-turner from the get-go, but as it plays on, there are some elements of classic Biffy in there, and as a long-time fan of theirs, this is a much-needed comfort after the wishy-washy shite-fest that was Ellipsis.
The final single that was released, Weird Leisure, incorporates almost everything I love about Biffy Clyro: the heavy bass, the dynamic reprieve before the chorus kicks in, and some juicy 7/8 timings to throw us off guard in the chorus. The drug-centric lyrics tie in beautifully with the wonky time signatures, almost imitating the high and the come-down. If you listen to nothing else, listen to this one.
Tiny Indoor Fireworks is a track with more “hey” than a horse cafeteria. Although this bubblegummy pop-rock tune is suitable for a dance and a sing-along, it’s probably my least favourite on the record. It’s a hard criticism to write without sounding like a big edgy bastard, but bubblegum is just too sweet, and hearing it from a notoriously heavy rock band makes it just that bit sicklier. The theme of the album might be change, but it’s probably best to just ignore this change in their sound.
Moving swiftly on, we reject modernity and embrace tradition for four minutes. Worst Type of Best Possible kicks off with an intro reminiscent of Biffy Clyro circa 2004, and though there’s a melodic progression from their early days, the overall structure of the song ventures into the past, ensuring that they keep a grasp on the hearts of their long-time fans. Instead of trying to be positive, the general message is that things are shit and you have to just deal with it.
Space is quite simply gorgeous. It almost acts as a sister track to The Thaw from their album Opposites, featuring the orchestral crescendo and earnest lyrics sure to warm you up on a cold, gloomy day. It’s a track that can’t be ignored, for fans new or old, and it’s a track that can’t quite be described on paper: I’ll leave you to experience the elation for yourself.
To follow the sweet sincerity of Space, of course, it’s time to dive into the post-punk inspired End Of. I’m always keen on a bitchy screw-it number on a record, and this is no exception. Weegie shouting: check. Dirty bass: check. Hefty drums: check. This track provides everything you need for a gluttonous angst-session and will definitely make you miss gigs and festivals.
Now for a controversial one. Instant History was the first track to be released as a single, and when I sat down to listen to it in February, the first thing I said was “Christ, is this album going to be wannabe EDM?” Thankfully, this wasn’t the case and, surprisingly, the song grew on me. It’s a strange one, there’s no doubt about that, but it works in the context of the album, and I have to admit that I really like it now.
Next up we have The Pink Limit, a tune that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Only Revolutions, but doesn’t entirely resort to old tendencies. The song is, in its entirety, true to Biffy Clyro, but the outro twists our expectations. With some dodgy chords and sudden rhythmic changes, they surprise us yet again. Next time my Nana calls me “the pink limit”, I’ll take it as a compliment.
Opaque is the Machines of this record. Or the Medicine. Or the God and Satan. Or the Atrocity. Or the Diary of Always. Or the Christopher’s River…you get the idea, it’s the soul-stirring acoustic number that Simon Neil will do with lightbulbs around him or something like that at their next gig. There’s no use in criticising or denying it: Biffy Clyro create some sensational acoustic moments, and I’m excited to see this one live.
Cop Syrup. Jesus, what an absolute euphoric masterpiece. Biffy has managed to fit the diversity and emotional range into a six-minute song that some artists can’t even fit in an album. Each section is a little reminiscent of the sounds that have made us love Biffy, and the guys have managed to mould it into something totally new and awe-inspiring, and for that, I applaud them. This track has also got me saying “fuckeverybodyWOO!” when I’ve been cutting about the flat for the past few days - I guess you'll have to listen to understand!
If you want an album that embraces tradition and modernity, I whole-heartedly recommend A Celebration of Endings. I can’t finish this article as well as Biffy Clyro finished their record, so all I can say is: fuck everybody, woo!
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
Top Track: Cop Syrup