Thursday, 31 January 2013

Biffy Clyro - Opposites

Ever since it was announced, I've been waiting patiently (and recently, not so patiently) for this album to be released. I pre-ordered it mid-September, and it arrived Tuesday morning (a day after release, much to my dismay), and am only just listening to it for the first time now. After reading other people's reviews I have mixed expectations, hence delaying listening to it. The band are incredibly happy with the album but I've seen quite a few reviews shit on it, although those people don't seem to know what they're talking about. A lot of the positive reviews I could say the same for, with someone describing the music on it as 'grunge' (err, what? They may have arguably been borderline grunge in the nineties and early noughties, but come on).

But enough babble, here it is:

I bought the all-singing, all-dancing boxset version. It smells damned good, although the £45 price-tag was somewhat steep (but still cheaper than the Muse boxset).

Alongside the double vinyl, there was a lyric book, guitar tab, leaf & film cutting, play-along disc, and the deluxe edition of the album (2 CDs and a DVD).

The Sand At The Core Of Our Bones

Before release, I'd actually heard 8 of the 10 tracks from this disc. 7 of those were from live or radio, the remaining one a friend sent to me when he got his review copy and I listened to so as to not hurt his feelings!

First track Different People is a fair opener, followed by the lead single Black Chandelier which I don't doubt is being overplayed on the radio right now. Sounds Like Balloons is a little edgier, although I still prefer the way it is played live as the riffs sound beefier. The Joke's On Us was one I loved when I heard it live, and I think it has translated very well to disc (shame the shoutier bits were left out, but I know they'll be back in March!). Biblical seems to be getting a lot of love from those on Tumblr, this being my third listen I'm definitely preferring it more now although I can't dismiss people's comments that it is ridiculously pop (still rocky and progressive though...?). A Girl And His Cat has a great electronic-y intro and is much more like classic Biffy once it kicks in. The Fog is the first track that's new to my ears, nice and slow, although I miss Simon's older, more fragile, falsetto. The crescendo is great on this track though (although it's reminding me of Muse a little, perhaps due to the classical influence I'm sensing). Little Hospitals is the real kicker on this disc with ridiculous lyrics, thumping bassline, heavy guitars. The Thaw is the closer, also a nice little track although it reminds of something else I can't quite put my finger on (the ending of the song sounds so...emo, I don't know haha).

The Land At The End Of Our Toes

From this disc I only knew 3 tracks previously, and only 1 of those had I heard the studio version of. So this disc felt rather like adventuring into the unknown.

The best-known song of course was Stingin' Belle, which has grown on me a lot after all the listens, although the extra section in the album version is somewhat jarring on first listen due to the unfamiliarity. Modern Magic Formula is another I'd loved hearing live, again sad that it isn't as shouty as it could have been, but could have been a lot worse (my friend had me worried by saying it sounded really different!). Spanish Radio has the mariachi band, I was expecting something a bit more 'out there' from this song to be honest...also I recognise this song and I don't get how, unless it just really sounds like something else or it was used in a video I've seen. Victory Over The Sun is another I'd heard live before, not a lot different on the record which is great as I'd worried that the backing vocals may have lost a bit of emotion in translation. Pocket I was curious about as apparently it has been in the works for a long time, but Simon was never happy with it. I personally think it would have benefitted from being slowed down considerably. Next track feels a lot more like older Biffy stuff (in places, at least), Trumpet Or Tap. Some nice riffs in there too, although it feels like an odd song to me, probably because of the strings. Skylight is another slow track, some very nice sounds in there but it just doesn't feel like Biffy really. Perhaps it's because I woke up quite early, but starting to get a bit bored by the track Accident And Emergency. Some great guitar sound on Woo Woo (although again reminiscent of something else). Last track Picture A Knife Fight wouldn't seem out of place on Puzzle or Lonely Revolutions (possibly because it just sounds like several other songs of that Biffy era unceremoniously smushed together). It provides a nice positive end to the album however, with the repeated ending line 'we've got to stick together'.

Overall I enjoyed the first disc, but part way through the second had a sense that the album is lacking something and that it is definitely too mainstream pop for my tastes. Which I didn't think I'd have a problem with, but there's something about it that just seems a bit forced and unimaginative, which isn't what I was expecting from the interviews I'd read leading up to it. I know my opinion will change and it'll grow on me as I get to know it better, and there are some really great songs on this. But I wouldn't recommend it to anyone as a first Biffy album to listen to. Even though it will be that for a lot of people I'm guessing, what with it looking good for being number one album in the UK this week.

I'd really liked the concept of the album, with the first disc being more negative and the second more positive, but the themes weren't particularly evident to me while listening, which was a shame. I had expected Sand to be slower, darker, quieter, more strings, and Land to be louder, faster, more aggressive. Instead both are mixed. I'll have to pay closer attention to lyrics on my second listen.

I should probably point out that at this point I'm tired from an early start and in a bad mood, which is probably affecting my judgement of the latter portion of this double album. I guess only further listening will tell. Afterall, it took a lot of listens of Blackened Sky for me to like it, and it's one of my favourite albums now.

Meanwhile, my vinyl copy of Black Chandelier is lost to the world, having been dispatched two weeks ago and no non-automated reply from HMV since they went bust in that time. Have had to reorder from Banquet as they only had 2 copies left, so basically I've made a £6 loss which is a pain in the butt.

Update:// Second listen through and my opinion is a lot more positive already. Helped along by the fact that I'm listening to it at twice the volume!

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