Glasgow’s hard rock juggernaut known as Biffy Clyro is a band as hard to classify as any other I’ve stumbled on over the last several years. The three-piece band mounts a massive wall of sonic dissonance with each song, creating invigorating artistic interplay while juggling complicated math-rock inspired progressions with prog-rock and pop leanings to create a brew you’re not going to find on any American radio station near you. I reviewed their Roadrunner debut, Puzzle, for SSv two years ago and I’d still stand by my argument that the band crafted one of the ten best albums of ‘07 that no one in America got the chance to fully appreciate.
The band’s latest album has not yet been given an American release, but thanks to the Internet in all its glory, this critic has gotten the opportunity to hear Only Revolutions, which has already gone top ten and Gold in the UK. And what an impressive album it is. If fans of the band’s heavier leanings were disappointed by Puzzle’s melodic pop-rock leanings, they’re going to be positively stymied by the band’s latest album, on which every track maintains the band’s heavier elements while courting radio even more openly. It’s a rare album within which the dozen tracks complement each other fully as a complete work, but also each function as a perfect potential single in the pop-rock genre.
This is still cutting edge post-hardcore music, but with an almost symphonic pop edge to it, with Simon Neil clearly wanting the band’s music to be as diverse as is humanly possible for three guys and their instruments to accomplish. It’s even more impressive how radio ready the music of Only Revolutions is when one considers the album is essentially a multi-layered concept album based on the American road novel of the same title by writer Mark Z. Danielewski, a dual narrative which featured wayward teenagers who never age as they experience the full breadth of history, a complicated conceptual and perceptual puzzle. That work fits perfectly with Biffy Clyro’s vision and is the biggest reason aside from their musicianship that the album has such a unified vision.
That musicianship, however, is an equal partner in the album’s success. The opening one-two punch of “The Captain” and “That Golden Rule” offer up for consumption the best angles of the Biffy Clyro sound. “The Captain” opens with a rising cadence of percussion that echoes the lock-step marching of a military group, then blasts listeners with a line of horns and intense percussion, bass and guitars as Neil bursts into frame: “Angels fall to the floor … I’m not the son of God! Somebody help me sing, can anybody hear me?” Then “That Golden Rule” echoes Puzzle’s “Saturday Superhouse” with some of the heaviest guitars to ever hit such a melodic track, coupled with Neil’s staccato vocals and the rest of the band’s shout-along backing vocals.
“God and Satan” provides a quieter moment or two, as Neil sings to a bare acoustic guitar: “I talk to God as much as I talk to Satan because I want to hear both sides … does that make me cynical?” Neil sings as he examines the frequent dualities inherent in life, both spiritual and secular. The rest of the album does its best to live up to that level of rhetorical depth, and it deserves to be given the full headphone treatment, songs played in sequence in order to fully experience the breadth of material contained in just 42 minutes of balls-to-the-wall rock.
As best I can tell there’s no plan to release this album in the States, but damned if we can’t make sure the Internet gets used to its fullest extent to promote a worthy band creating impressive, complex, layered meaningful music. If enough attention is paid perhaps the band will receive a proper American release with the promotion to make sure it’s heard. Otherwise Only Revolutions is destined to be the band’s second full length to be among the best albums you didn’t get to hear. It comes with my unqualified recommendation, and is well worth the time and effort involved in hunting down a copy.
Reprinted with permission from Stereo Subversion.