Biffy Clyro // Opposites // January 28, 2013 // 14th Floor
Mon the Biffy once went the riotous crowds. The Biffy have responded. Once the most promising and delivering mixture of chart friendly arena rock and jerky, time signature smashing post hardcore, the Kilmarnock three piece have since rediscovered themselves and flourished commercially by throwing away the latter half of the formula. Backslash followed. The band responded by some straight forward rock singles, sappy ballads and a career lowest point song that was later covered by the winner of X Factor, incidentally making it his life’s high point. Who would’ve thought. Opposites is a double album and while it doesn’t make the band as alive as they once were, it’s the moment where they focus their affinity for the mediocrity towards some pretty decent pop songs interrupted by the poisonous attention towards the unnecessary grandeur.
Opposites is Biffy Clyro’s sixth album and while their third record Infinity Land has summed up its two predecessors Blackened Sky and The Vertigo Of Bliss, Opposites collects and averages everything that was convoyed during Puzzle and Only Revolutions. The record finds the band at their most polished yet and while nothing on here is as offensive as the worst of its two predecessors, the quality of the average is not necessarily something we should compliment Biffy Clyro on. Needless to say Opposites is a further retreat into the string laden ballad world, a barren landscape filled with the sort of fist pumping stadium songs that don’t display any sort of artistic evolution since Only Revolutions, a record that came out whole four years ago. By now it’s pretty much pointless to complain that the band are not dealing in any sort of excitement that was once associated with them. To put it in musical perspective, even the last two records had lead singles that somewhat harked back towards band’s early days. Opposites in that regard is full of false starts. While the singles Stingin’ Belle and Black Chandelier is mediocrity redefined, the sort of rock songs that are supposed to be written by an rockist outcast on a reality TV programme, a fair number of tracks like Different People and Sounds Like Balloons start out with a teasing jerky riff just to go off into nothingness. While it’s clearly a conscious decision to have a loose allusion to their beginnings, these moments are a frustrating tease from a band who themselves seem to be double thinking.
Opposites simply thinks too much. While as a song for song effort it’s their best since Infinity Land, it’s pretty hard for Opposites to take off as a rock album that wears its heart on its sleeve. Biffy Clyro’s ongoing collaboration with Storm Thorgerson makes little to no sense nowadays. He’s the man responsible for Biffy’s last three album covers as well as some covers for other bands like Pink Floyd and whatnot. If anything, the surreal imagery that Thorgerson’s art conveys has more to do with broken minded nature of band’s early recordings. Opposites instead builds up the wall of intelligence that is not necessarily felt in these records. The album cover means nothing and neither do a lot of the ideas conveyed here. Sure, the double album is split into two halves: one is supposed to be dark and solitary while the other is enlightening and uplifting. That is purely displayed by the lyrics because as far as the instrumentals here go, Opposites is all over the place. For every harsher rock number like Little Hospitals, we are treated to a somewhat pointless buzzkill like The Fog. Despite the band saying that Opposites is all killer no filler, there’s just too many of those unnecessary slower moments that ultimately feel like prolonged interludes. I mean, does anyone really approach Biffy Clyro for their ballads? They are at their current best when they descend to the pit that their straight forward rock has lowered them to. Biblical is one of the few tracks on here that has nothing alluding to the past and focuses purely on the hooks. Before it goes into a cringe worthy, crowd baiting big woah, it stands as one of the more honest and purely enjoyable songs on the record. Same with the innocence of Pocket which is the closest the band has got to capturing the carefree pop of their early hit Questions & Answers. On the other hand, moments like A Girl And His Cat are just that, hard to understand attempt at coming across as imaginative but within the context of this record, these backwards looking experimentations are more distracting than refreshing.
All the meanings aside, Opposites should be split into two halves according to the way it rocks out. Safe ballads that no one really wants to hear to one side and the harder, shattered moments that, while not mindblowing in their songwriting, they will end up among the hardest rocking songs released by anyone in the UK this year. On Opposites these separate sides are intertwined and it doesn’t matter which side you prefer, one or another is going to end up being dragged down by the severe inconsistency. What Opposites does best is it reassures that despite the safe arena rock that they’ve been largely known throughout the last couple of albums, they are still capable of making something a bit heavier, something that made us love them around a decade ago. It’s the faux thoughtfulness and the cleanly polished grace within these songs that make us realise that those moments are unlikely to ever be more as a mere glimpse of a once great promise. Opposites does enough to warrant Biffy Clyro another topless tour. We on the other hand, are going to keep our shirts firmly on our bodies and wait for a more consistent effort.