Every Biffy Clyro Album, Ranked From Worst to Best

Considering they make up one half of this site’s name (you know, the one you’re reading from just now), it’ll come as no surprise that we’re big fans of Biffy Clyro and who can blame us. Having went through multiple iterations in terms of sound (from angsty grunge to awe inspiring weird prog rock), the divide amongst fans about which album of theirs deserves the crown has went on for as long as the band have been around: hell, we’ve already done this before when this site was just a small wee thing but much has changed since then both with us and the biff.

Today is the day the questioning will die though as Ethan (@human_dis4ster), Jake (@jjjjaketh), Liam (@blnkclyr) and Oli (@notoliverbutler) definitively answer which record from the Ayrshire trio reigns supreme – it’s time to build this fucker stone by stone…

Quick disclaimer: This is, like, our opinion or whatever, dude. Disagree? The comments down below will house whatever rage you’re feeling.

 

7. Ellipsis (2016)

Liam [7th]: I still remember the slagging I got from Biffy fans when Wolves of Winter came out and I called it “more Biffy 3.0 than Biffy 2.5”, something that could be said for the entirety of this album. Ellipsis is by no means a bad album, featuring tracks that are honest to god great like In The Name Of The Wee Man, but it doesn’t feel unique enough to stand out from the previous three albums the band had dropped in this style – more disappointing than weak.

Oli [5th]: No, you’re stupid. Don’t care what you think, this might be Biffy’s softest record, but who can resist the charms of Medicine, People and Re-Arrange? The soulless, faceless consumers that have never loved and lost. I attach a special & emotional meaning to this record that makes it a cut above the rest for me.

Jake [7th]: Biffy’s latest is far from bad but it’s their weakest. In interviews prior to the album’s release, Simon Neil said Ellipsis was inspired by artists like Death Grips and Deafheaven, and when this turned out to not be true, fans of the band were understandably a bit ticked off. Songs like People and Herex are cookie cutter rock but there are some shining lights on the record in the form of Small Wishes and Wolves of Winter. The main event of the album is undoubtedly In the Name Of The Wee Man, which was, for some reason that is beyond this writer, relegated to a bonus track. It’s a furious jolt of adrenaline that, hopefully, we’ll get to see more of on LP 8.

Ethan [7th]: As time goes on, I dislike this album more and more and the same can be said about most of the tracks on here. Animal Style is exactly what I wanted from this record so when it turned out to be an anomaly, it made the rest of the album a bit of a chore. Clearly finding the band at an awkward stage in their career, Ellipsis just seems to lack any real urgency or ambition – it is hardly bad enough to ruin the band’s legacy but signals a need for a reinvention on their next venture.

 

6. Opposites (2013)

Oli [7th]: Much like myself, Opposites is bloated, unnecessary and largely forgotten about. Any Biffy list feels unfair because someone has to come last. Opposites produced a hearty handful of choice singles, but on the whole, felt a bit cumbersome & stodgy as a double album.

Jake [6th]: Double albums almost never work, but I think Biffy have come the closest ever to making a coherent one. Not to say Opposites is perfect, far from it with with tracks like Trumpet or Tap being weird for the sake of it as opposed to the natural oddity that Biffy tend to radiate and Opposite is just a bit bland. That’s not to say there’s not belters either: Accident Without Emergency is a soaring bit of stadium rock, as is setlist mainstay Different People, and tracks like Spanish Radio and Little Hospitals keep the weirdness factor at a cosy level. If some filler had been left on the cutting room floor, Opposites would be held in higher regard but as it is, it’s still a great, yet bloated record.

Ethan [6th]: The band, after the popularity of Only Revolutions, faced a dilemma with their sixth album, having to choose between continuing down a more commercial path or going back to their roots, and the band opted to do…both. A double album that contains more accessible tracks such as Biblical and Black Chandelier but also tracks that are reminiscent of their earlier years such as Trumpet or Tap, the band attempted to please both camps and unfortunately came up short on both. Still an adequate Biffy album, Opposites has many highlights but its length and inconsistency in quality and tone let it down.

Liam [5th]: I’ll be echoing the same sentiment as you lot have since, aye, there’s undeniably a bit of unnecessary flubber on this behemoth but when this beast roars, I’m left in awe; Victory Over The Sun manages to feel like an honest to god predator, a suspenseful intro paving the way for the chaotic hunt that makes up most of this track. In addition, Sounds Like Balloons is Biffy at their viscous best and while it may be a bit too polished, Biffy’s “pop rock” is miles ahead of most other rock bands. I have some attachment to this record, as I do with most of Biffy, but there’s a lot to love here for any fan of music, even if there’s some that you’ll pass on.

 

5. Only Revolutions (2010)

Jake [5th]: The true beginning of the mainstream Biffy we all know and love* (*have come to terms with), Only Revolutions is still a damn fine record. It manages to tow the line between “Weird Biffy” and “Straightforward Biffy” relatively well for the most part, songs like Born On A Horse with its driving synth and Cloud of Stink with it’s falsetto vocals are welcome spells of strangeness. But the weird is tucked in alongside some of the most straightforward Biffy songs to date in Mountains, God & Satan and Many of Horror. Still, straightforward doesn’t mean bad, not by a long shot, and this is a very strong pop rock record.

Ethan [5th]: The album that lost them hundreds of fans but gained them thousands, Only Revolutions was Biffy completely embracing their mainstream audience with huge singles such as Mountains and Many Of Horror. Their talent for instrumental structure and interesting lyrics was still there though it pales in comparison with their work before. An enjoyable listen rather than a truly great album, the album did its job as it propelled the band to arena status and made them Scotland’s biggest band but left fans like myself wanting a bit more and feeling cautious about the band’s future musically.

Liam [6th]: I feel like I’ll get butchered for having this below Opposites but where that album felt like it was trying to spice up the formula a bit, Only Revolutions kind of came off as that kid that copies someone (Puzzle) else’s homework and gets a grade below them. There’s some undeniable bangers on here, why else would I own it on vinyl, but this album’s peaks are only kinda high, compared to most other Biffy record where you feel like you’re getting vertigo.

Oli [3rd]: This is a fantastic album, and really began to prick up a few ears outside of their closed inner circle, culminating in a headline show at Wembley Arena, plus a support gig on one of Muse’s Wembley Stadium gigs (first time I saw Biffy, was mesmerised by the hard rock, shirtless Father Christmas called Simon Neil). Much as we like to poke fun at Matt Cardle’s version, Many of Horror is a banger, so it Mountains, so is God & Satan.

4. Blackened Sky (2002)

Ethan [4th]: Doing exactly what a debut album should do, Blackened Sky announced Biffy Clyro’s arrival and was bursting with potential. While their influences are easily distinguishable, this is common for a debut album and while that is probably its biggest weakness, Biffy added enough flavour of their own and their raw aggression and ambition overpowers the album’s flaws.

Liam [3rd]: Yup, it’s not the most original work ever made but that doesn’t mean that the sheer rawness of this angsty bastard isn’t deserving of critical applaud. Much like the rest of the original trilogy and Puzzle, there’s not one slip up, no weak moment to point out that feels like it could have been tweaked. While their fourth record had the saddest subject matter, Blackened Sky is my go to record when I want to feel miserable and enjoy it.

Oli [5th]: Justboy is the best Biffy song ever, fight me irl. Solid debut album from Biffy, introducing their electrifying brand of alt-rock to the world, and albeit not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, was the beginning of something very special.

Jake [4th]: What a charming wee record this is. The Biff’s debut wears its influences not just on its sleeve, but on every item of clothing it’s wearing. It’s obvious that the band had been listening to a lot of Nirvana, Pixies and Fugazi, and they channelled those influences to great effect on Blackened Sky. The loud/quiet/loud song structure on songs like Kill The Old, Torture Their Young and Stress on The Sky are complimented beautifully by the quieter songs like Christopher’s River and Scary Mary. Nothing groundbreaking, but a fantastic framework for The Biff to build upon.

3. Infinity Land (2004)

Liam [2nd]: Weird, erratic, random (but not the XD kind), Infinity Land would be the last record I’d recommend to first time Biffy listeners but that’s not to imply a lack of quality. Considering the underground success the band were experiencing at the time, it’s admirable that instead of going down the path they would trod half a decade later, Biffy chose to turn the dial up to 11 and make an album that, while sporadic in nature, was 100% them.

Oli [4th]: Another one where you pick it up because of how cool the cover art looks, which probably applies to the whole Biffy discography. Lyrically and sonically this was a much darker album compared to VoB and Blackened Sky, and got even crazier in terms of curveball riffs & manic time structures.

Jake [2nd]: I’d say Vertigo of Bliss was insane, and I mean it, but that must make Infinity Land a few steps above insane. Biffy just threw everyfuckingthing at this album, regardless if it made a modicum of sense, and by some miracle it worked. Si’s lyrics had always been a bit vague but the surrealness factor was turned up to 11 on Infinity Land, and it’s better for it. One of the most important rock records of the 21st century for me.

Ethan [3rd]: By far their darkest and perhaps their most obscure album, Infinity Land is maybe overlooked but personally I feel its Biffy at their most inventive. Simon Neil’s vocals are phenomenal  as he adapts to each track with ease and his delivery is commanding no matter what is required of him. The album is unpredictable and exciting even on the 100th listen as tracks such as There’s No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake are heavy but are laced with surprises and twists that make it, and the rest of the album, so intriguing.

2. Puzzle (2007)

Liam [4th]: Out of the first four albums, this is the one that I’ve listened to the least though a) that doesn’t mean much considering I’ve probably listened to them nearly a thousand times collectively and b) this is down to just how cathartic and emotionally charged Puzzle is. True, it’s a lot more friendly to new comers but to imply that means there’s a dip in quality would be naive and flat out wrong: Simon Neil’s lyrics are authentic as well utterly heartbreaking and with how varied the instrumentals can be on here, it allows for a truly enthralling journey of grief.

Oli [1st]: This was probably the record that began the tip from Biffy being time-signature weirdos to hard rock megaliths. For instance, Machines is a song that speaks to everyone on every emotional level, and there’s a good reason Living Is A Problem is still in the setlist today. This record is a record that I can listen to anytime, anywhere.

Jake [3rd]: The opening chapter of Biffy’s second trilogy is the saddest album in their discography. Written in the wake of the death of Simon’s mum Elanor, the album is far more straight forward from a songwriting perspective than anything they’d released prior. The lyrics obviously centre heavily around death and dealing with loss and the instrumentation ditches the strange time signatures and use of left field instruments that had been the calling card of the bands first 3 albums, and instead they elected to things simple. And it worked. A heartbreaking album.

Ethan [2nd]: Perhaps the pivotal moment in Biffy Clyro’s discography, Puzzle is a complete departure from Infinity Land, while still remaining heavy enough to keep longtime fans happy, Puzzle ventured into more accessible territory that widened their audience. For that reason Puzzle was a crossover success, and deservedly so as it contains some of Biffy Clyro’s most emotionally powerful songs and further showed their range and versatility as a band.

1. Vertigo of Bliss (2003)

Oli [2nd]: Definitely one of those records you pick up because of how cool the artwork is, VoB was fully immune to second album syndrome, becoming a furious hard rock odyssey that only further Biffy as alt-rock darlings. Simon Neil teased the intro to With Aplomb during their 2016 tour, and arenas full of people constantly blew their beans at the prospect of with aplomb.

Jake [1st]: VOB is a smashing big cacophony of insanity that is the benchmark from which all subsequent Biffy Clyro albums will be measured against. It’s just a very weird and very, very good slice of alt-rock/post-hardcore and it cemented Biffy from relatively early on in their career as a band not to be ignored

Ethan [1st]: On their follow up, Biffy perfected the approach they had taken on their debut and capitalised on it massively. Crossing over a multitude of genres, Biffy invented their own brand and produced a stellar collection of songs that still stand as many of their best. From the delicacy of All The Way Down to the ferocity of Now The Action is On Fire, the band showed every aspect of their potential on Vertigo of Bliss, including Simon Neil’s lyrics being at their most subtle and sincere.

Liam [1st]: This was the album for me that not only solidified why I want to write about music but why I adore it. Zany, unpredictable, clamorous and, most of all, entertaining, Vertigo of Bliss may not be Infinity Land’s equal in terms of how unstable it is, but it more than makes up for it with how it balances the ferocity of Blackened Sky’s performances and the beauty of Si’s lyrics.

 

 

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Looking Back At…Opposites by Biffy Clyro

by oliver butler (@notoliverbutler)

Biffy Clyro are an enigma. For a band of such notoriety, they still seem like the outsider’s choice when it comes to music. Favouring the weird and wonderful when it comes to lyrics, song titles and of course, their A-Level maths equations of time signatures, nobody can say that they’re bland and by-the-numbers.

Since the turn of the decade, their star has continued to rise, with Only Revolutions beginning to put them on the map, ending 2017 as multi-festival headliners, with a sub-headline slot at Glastonbury, and many of you could easily argue that Sheeran should have been bumped in favour of the Biff.

However, the record that catapulted them to the headline scene is a bit of a weird one. The bearded Scottish rockers are known for writing thirty or forty choice cuts, packaging a select few into an album; if that wasn’t enough, there’s a b-side album to go along with, which obviously isn’t as good as the main event, but nothing to be sniffed at (See also: Little Soldiers from Lonely Revolutions). But for their sixth studio album, Opposites, Biffy went big time. Instead of a slim, lean studio album, the Kilmarnock trio released Opposites as a big, fat double album, five years ago today.

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, they also released a b-sides album called Similarities, because Simon Neil cannot physically say the word “holiday”.

Opposites should always be remembered as the album that brought Biffy to the very top. An arena tour was launched in early 2013 to promote the album, with the band headlining Reading & Leeds in that year as well. Whilst festival headliners are always a contentious issue, anyone who headlines the festival twice (as they did for the second time in 2016) must be doing something right.

However, whilst Opposites produced setlist mainstays, and some of the best Biffy Clyro tracks ever written, Opposites, like many double albums feels a bit bloated and unnecessary. Whilst we live in the age of playlists, single tracks & pick ‘n’ mix music, a double album is still a hefty thing to get through in one sitting, and with anything, the laws of diminishing returns soon apply, and you find yourself with fewer and fewer quality tracks, the longer the album goes on.

That being said, Different People is probably one of the best opening tracks of the modern era. The ethereal synth with heartbreaking lyrics bursting through into a high-tempo rock & roll express made it an absolute peach of an opener for their 2013 tour, with that absolutely fantastic light up tree, similar to the album cover. You wanna talk choice cuts from Opposites that ISN’T an opening track? How about everyone’s favourite set closer, Stingin’ Belle. The only thing wrong with that track is the lyric “You make me laugh, I’ll make you cry, I guess that rhymes”, which doesn’t rhyme at all, something Simon Neil has made light of during live sets, but even so, what a brilliant, confusing lyric.

Opposites also allowed for a more accessible Biffy sound, with tracks like Biblical and Opposite capturing that Clyro magic, but packaging it in a way that everyone can enjoy. But the same brand of aggressive, balls-to-the-wall sound was present in Sounds Like Balloons, and with all of the above, it’s hard not to see why they still cement their place in Biffy setlists, despite having seven albums of quality tunes, all of which get a sniff at the setlist.

However, the laws of diminishing returns did indeed apply, and whilst no slouches themselves, nobody will remember A Girl and His Cat and Woo Woo as well as they remember Spanish Radio. Double albums will never be good, it’s just the way it is. How they managed to do a double album AND a b-sides album is a total mystery and something that shouldn’t ever be explained. Had Opposites been slimmed down into a 10/12 track LP, it could have easily been the GOAT Biffy album, but the stragglers that found their way onto their album slow it down a bit.

But above all else, Opposites was THE album that will be remembered as the one that allowed Biffy to join the immortals. Ellipsis was a strong sequel to Opposites and continued their role as arena-filling, festival headlining, riffin’, griftin’ sons of guns.

And that folks, is why Opposites should have a very happy birthday.

Killer Finales: Albums That Finish With Their Strongest Tracks

Whether your album goes on for an hour or ten minutes, the general rule of thumb is to finish things with a bang rather than a fizzle. Sure, there are a handful of albums that could be considered one of the greatest whose best track is somewhere in the middle (hell, maybe all the tracks are so great it’s hard to pick a definitive one) but that’s not what we’re talking about today. So strap yourselves in folks because today, the good folk of blinkclyro are going to go through a host of favourites that made sure to bow out in the best way possible.

The Velvet Underground – Sister Ray
White Light/White Heat

17 and a half minute long epitome of the legendary band’s sophomore avant garde quest to create something new from the thunderous noise rock they hammer out via tribal drums, buzzing organs and melting guitars – so brutal the producer walked out half way through the recording, but so very good.

Josh Adams (@jxshadams)

The National – Mr November
Alligator

The ultimate send-off for the album which represented a turning point in their careers, the twilight zone of a band on the verge of critical and commercial success. An explosive 4-minute distillation of everything they’ve done up to that point, Matt’s voice nears breaking point as he yells “I won’t fuck us over / I’m Mr November” with steely conviction.

Kieran Cannon (@kiercannon)

Carly Rae Jepsen – Roses
EMOTION SIDE B

WILDCARD BITCHES! Nothing omitting a cheeky wee b-side album, not as long as I’m running this site, which means the once meme turned queen of Partrician can make an appearance with this stunning track. If you’re gonna title two of your albums with EMOTION then you gotta show it and Roses just oozes heartbreak, whether it be the flower imagery or Jepsen’s vocals that at times sound like she has a legitimate lump in her throat. 

-Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

The Clash – Train In Vain
London Calling

Initially elided from the track listing and kept as a secret cut on the record, The Clash opted to close out their sprawling, genre-swinging double album London Calling with a modest breakup song. Detailing the dissolved relationship between vocalist Mick Jones and Viv Albertine of The Slits, the band turn their politically keen focus inward. Easily the most personal song on the album, Jones reaches an invaluable epiphany in the throes of his heartbreak: “You don’t understand my point of view/ I suppose there’s nothing I can do.”

-Sean Hannah (@shun_handsome)

Fatherson – Foreign Waters
I Am An Island

Just sums up Fatherson and their debut in every way possible. Slow, sad moments mixing with huge chorus and drum – throw in the addition of the wee 2 minute hidden track at the end and you’ve got a superb finale.

– Gregor Farquharson (@grgratlntc)

Radiohead – Motion Picture Soundtrack
Kid A

So much has been said and written about the icy atmosphere of that record and MPS continues this to the n-th degree with the chilling organ backdrop, however the twinkling harp that comes in combines with some of Thom’s best ever vocals to bring a beautiful sense of humanity to the record, and “I will see you in the next life” has to be the best album-closing lyric ever.

-Andrew Barr (@weeandreww)

Gaslight Anthem – National Anthem
Handwritten

An album that shows so much ‘in your face’ guitar angst is closed perfectly with a delicate, emotional ballad. It shows the versatility of their sound & that they have much more to offer than riffs, hooks & drum fills – for me, this is the peak of the most rounded album The Gaslight Anthem have ever put out.

-Callum Thornhill (@cal_thornhill )

Biffy Clyro – Now The Action Is On Fire
Vertigo Of Bliss

It (somehow) manages to condense everything that made very early Biffy so special into one song. It has a bit of everything, a frantic string section, some of the best vocals the trio had ever and will ever put down, some gloriously heavy instrumentation and weird as fuck lyrics that were fast becoming a signature part of the Biff’s repertoire. It’s bombastic, loud and by all accounts it shouldn’t work but THAT’S why it’s so good. In a word, masterful.

-Jake Cordiner (@jjjjaketh)

Arctic Monkeys – 505
Favourite Worst Nightmare

At this point in their career 505 was the most emotionally bare Turner’s lyrics had been and still today remains arguably their best song and suitably ends most of their sets with that unforgettable riff sounding better each time you hear it. On an album where the band improved in every way, 505 embodies that change during its climax.

-Ethian Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

Muse – Knights Of Cydonia
Black Holes & Revelations

The epitome of bombastic rock and roll grandeur, from the giant opening stabs to the infamous “No one’s gonna take me alive” bridge/ending, it could be used as a blueprint to end an album. It’s overblown, in your face and pompous, making it the perfect song for the credits to roll.

– Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Death Grips – Hacker
The Money Store

Described by cuindependent.com as “the moment when all shit breaks loose and all that’s left to do is riot”, Hacker is the point in Death Grips’ career where they realised that they were the shit and wanted everyone to know about it. They’re in your area, whether you fucking like it or not. 

-Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)
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Top 6 Acts of TRNSMT

By Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr

Now that the dust has settled, the rain soaked clothes dried and the hangovers somewhat cured, it’s time to have a look at TRNSMT. A festival that seemingly came out of nowhere with the feat of filling in the shoes of T In The Park, the odds seemed against the Glasgow based event yet it managed to leave everyone in attendance more than pleased. Glasgow Green was the perfect location for a festival like this, not too out of the way and full of beautiful scenery – unlike it’s predecessor, stages weren’t miles apart yet the sound was never compromised by the distance.

Were there mistakes? Of course – sound at certain stages seemed to flicker in quality repeatedly, the Saturday was weak with some misplaced acts and things like food and drink were ridiculously priced. Despite that though, the atmosphere was incredible and was worth every penny. Then there’s the acts who made it all worth the sore feet and being hit by multiple cups of questionable fluids: some are big and some may not have been on your radar prior but regardless, these are the artists that don’t so much need your attention but demand it.

6. The Vistas

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A band that we’ve covered extensively since they first came onto the scene with their hot indie rock single Sign LanguageVistas were oddly low on the King Tuts bill considering the success and crowd they have accumulated. Starting off with the aforementioned breakout track, the Edinburgh pop-rock outfit had the crowd chanting and moshing along to their catchy infusion of noughties indie and their own wee touches. Teasing a new track due to drop in August, Vistas made sure not to waste a single second when it came to their set, playing some classic tunes (yes, a band this new have somehow managed to make a classic tune) at breakneck speed.

With the sun shining down, the band were the perfect way to start the day and with the reaction they got from the audience, I won’t be surprised to see this band become a regular sight at festivals all over the UK.

5. The 1975

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If you had asked me a few years back if I would seriously enjoy a 1975 gig then I would have laughed in your face (then swiftly apologised ofc). Now that the actual scenario has occurred, and now that you’ve seen its placement on this list, I have to admit how shocked I was by the sheer quality of this set. A lot of fans, mainly Twin die hards, complained that they were on before Biffy instead of Twin Atlantic though when you put down the facts (The 1975 are a bigger act, more critically acclaimed and put on a real visual spectacle in their shows) then you can’t really complain.

The 1975 for sure justified their position on the line-up, frontman Matty Healy, love him or hate him, showing why so many people tend to call him one of the best showmen around at the moment. From the clunky, oddly nice dancing to how well his vocals translate from LP to the stage, it was an easy to love gig – even if half the crowd in front of you had their phones up. This in addition to the visuals going on stage as well as the chat between the band and the audience, even a wee cringe line about a ‘ballroom dancing pit’, made the whole performance feel so wrong yet so right. The music itself may range from bland to amazing and back again all too frequently but with the show the boys put on, their place on this list is undeniable.

4. Stormzy

If we’re being transparent, we tried our best not to go anywhere near the main stage today: a bunch of samey, indie rock bands that seem to do more harm than good to the genre they claim to care about so much. Stormzy was on our must see list though and boy, he somehow still blew our expectations out of the park.

The energy of a cheetah and with the same instinct, he put on the show of a lifetime and managed to convert the sceptics in the crowd. There was no moment to catch your breath bar Cigarettes and Cush and even then, most of the crowd were singing along in typical festival fashion. Even when he covered Ed Sheeran, something that on paper should have made us wince in pain, the lord of the mic still made a positive mark – it almost begs the question of whether or not Stormzy can do any wrong. As he closes the set with the classic Shut Up, the flood of charisma and gratitude radiating from the man is undeniable. Now that Grime has solidified itself in the public sphere, it’s safe to say that Stormzy will be at the top of his game for the foreseeable future.

3. The Vegan Leather

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Who would have honestly thought that one of the most exciting sets of the entire day would have came from a wee glitzy group from Paisley? Well, those who were aware of The Vegan Leather before today certainly did and even their expectations were blown out of the water. With frontman Gian-Luca walking out in a wee, glimmering disco jacket wielding his guitar and a silver looking (fake) peacock, the feeling of the band’s performance was firmly set.

Tracks like Shake It, while still in their infancy, still got a reaction from the crowd with a lot of people near the front dancing and chanting along: when you have Talking Heads meets Yeah Yeah Yeahs meet LCD-Soundsystem as the closest to a description of your band’s sound, who can really blame them? Out of the lot though, This House gathered the biggest reaction out of the band’s setlist, even literally bringing the audience to their knees just for that eruptious climax of both the song and the band’s set. If The Vegan Leather weren’t on anyone’s radar before this gig, then they for sure as hell are firmly placed at the top now.

2. Biffy Clyro

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Did you really not expect to see this band land highly on this list? We could talk all day about the quality of the band’s music, recent LPs compared to the original trilogy and what not, but when it comes to the live shows there’s one thing that everyone can admit – Biffy Clyro try to make every gig their best.

Sunday night was no different and you really couldn’t pick a better band to end your festival with – from the pyros to confetti to fucking fireworks, the band didn’t hold back when it came to the miscellaneous splendour that they have a knack for. Of course,the real attraction is the band themselves and it’s hard to think of a time that Simon Neil acted more giddy: “Thanks for not kicking me out of Scotland for wearing sequinned trousers” the front-man quips at one point, managing to keep that down to earth appeal that you wouldn’t expect from a band who have “achieved so much more than you possibly thought they could”. The setlist was exactly what you expect from a festival but there was some gems here and there: All The Way Down has only been played once since 2014 so it was a total shock to see it played last night and There’s No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake has a similar track record, unsurprisingly making them the highlights of the night.

“This might sound like I’m blowing smoke on your balls, but tonight has been our favourite ever show in Scotland” says Neil towards the end of the set. He may very well be doing so but from last night’s performance, the smiles on their faces and the sweat dripping down, if they’re lying they deserve a bloody Oscar for it.

1. Radiohead

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Here it was, the main event of Friday night. Radiohead‘s reputation precedes them though that changes from person to person: some will naively tell you that they’re a bunch of moaners, others will tell you they’re the best band of all time – funnily enough, both statements aren’t exclusive from the either. As the band began things with a curveball, Let Down starting off the night’s proceedings instead of the tour’s old faithful DayDreaming intro, the way tonight’s performance was gonna go was set.

There were too many highlights to count: Thom Yorke’s infectious da dancing to Myxomatosis had mulitple folk in the audience trying to replicate it, there was the sing-song loveliness of the band’s not so deep cuts like No Surprises and Paranoid Android, beautiful moments where the two infused like during Bodysnatchers that probably had the biggest reaction from the audience even though it’s not one of the best known tracks from the group. Repeatedly thanking the audience throughout the set, Yorke and co’s appreciation for both everyone in attendance and the fans who have got them there was honest and heartwarming.

It seems a bit obvious to have a headliner as one of the top acts of the weekend but if you were there, or caught coverage of TRNSMT, then you know that there really wasn’t anything like this all weekend. “This is what you get, when you mess with us” Yorke sings gracefully on closing track Karma Police: if this is the result then everyone should fuck with Radiohead more often.


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LOOKING BACK ON…PUZZLE BY BIFFY CLYRO

By Andrew Barr (@weeandreww)

So many legendary albums are by bound together by the fact that they have become inseparable from their “story” and how they were created. Think of Radiohead’s seminal OK Computer, and you’ll think of Thom Yorke’s paranoia after constant touring and his fears of technology. Think of Nirvana’s legendary In Utero and you’ll think of Kurt’s drug addiction, depression and demise, shortly after the record’s release.

Biffy Clyro’s 4th LP, Puzzle is one of those albums. Puzzle was written after the death of frontman Simon Neil’s mother, so lyrically, the record deals heavily with loss and grief, and the record’s weighty subject matter has led to Neil calling it the band’s most important record. Celebrating its 10th birthday (or anniversary, depending on your preference), Biffy’s fourth album has proved crucial to their discography (and career) in the years since its 2007 release.

The whole album deals with aspects of Neil’s grief but the track that deals with this subject matter most explicitly is Folding Stars, a beautiful ballad which opens with finger-picked guitar lines and builds to a big chorus which hears Neil shouting his mum’s name, followed by the beautiful tribute “you will be folding stars”.

Folding Stars is undoubtedly the album’s most “crucial” track for a whole host of reasons, not just the lyrical content. Puzzle is the first album that Biffy made on a major label after moving to 14th Floor Records and, for a band who claim they have always worked in trilogies, marked the start of their second trilogy.

Puzzle sees the Ayrshire trio embrace their pop sensibilities more than their first three records and places less emphasis on abstract prog-rock anthems which trademarked the band’s first trilogy. Folding Stars is the album’s poppiest track, which songwriter Simon Neil alluded to in an interview where he said “It’s probably the prettiest song we’ve ever written as a band…that was the one on the record that needed to be absolutely perfect and I know she (Neil’s mum) would love that song”.

Biffy’s move into mainstream territory paid dividends: Puzzle shot to number 2 in the UK album charts and appeared on multiple end-of-year lists in 2007. What has enabled this record to stand the test of time is just how well Simon Neil and twins Ben and James Johnston managed to merge their complex, angular songwriting into more regular song structures, without diluting what people loved so much about Biffy’s earlier works.

Anyone who claims that the trio “sold out” should be pointed in the direction of the album’s opener, the soaring Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies, which opens with eerie violins and a minute of irregular guitar strums, before an anthemic chorus where Simon Neil is echoed by a choir. Musically, it’s perhaps the most “Biffy Clyro” song that Biffy Clyro have ever written, as it is impossible to speak about without throwing up words such as “bonkers” or “bizarre”.

Further proof of the band’s left-field roots is seen on Get Fucked Stud, perhaps the album’s heaviest moment, where an almost menacingly smooth instrumental transition into a blood-and-thunder chorus, with Neil’s aggressive vocals sounding almost confrontational.

While these tracks showcase the fact that the band hadn’t lost their edge, they feel unmistakably like a Biffy Clyro 2.0, and the lyrics have a massive hand in this. The Ayrshire trio’s first 3 records were loved for many reasons but the lyrics were rarely one of them. However, on Puzzle, every line feels more considered and more poetic as a result.

As Dust Dances is one of the best examples of the musical and lyrical progression that can be seen on Puzzle. The track begins with a pretty straightforward instrumental, but Biffy’s prog-rock roots can be heard as the track builds to a huge crescendo, which feels even more immense with a focus on Neil’s lyrics. Throughout, Neil personifies death in the chorus lyrics of “it’s bigger than everything it decides to touch”, a poetic but terrifying observation of mortality. The crescendo then hears Neil echoing “It’s such a lonely ride”, exemplifying the pessimistic state he found himself in after his mother’s death.

Despite the impression from tracks like Living is a Problem… and As Dust Dances, Puzzle isn’t a “depressing” album on the whole. In fact, the record contains some of the band’s most “fun” songs in their entire discography. Saturday Superhouse and Who’s Got a Match? Cannot be described as anything but “fun”, and have grown into favourites in Biffy’s famed live show. The latter has a punchy, catchy instrumental, with a guitar line that has an almost exotic feel to it, and Neil’s playful vocal performance makes the track even more enjoyable.

Image result for biffy clyro 2007

A tribute that must be paid to Puzzle is that 10 years and 3 studio albums later, so many of this album’s tracks are still mainstays in Biffy’s aforementioned live sets. Living is a Problem now stands out as one of the more obscure tracks in the set, and tracks like Get Fucked Stud and Semi-Mental display the band’s more aggressive sets.

However, Puzzle didn’t just add to Biffy’s live set, it also played a part in developing their live shows. Stunning album closer Machines is a live staple, where twins Ben and James Johnston depart the stage and leave frontman Neil to perform the bare-bones acoustic number. The track feels like a sequel to Folding Stars and the lyrics of Neil regaining his optimism are among the band’s best, including the almost iconic chorus lyric “take the pieces and build them skywards” which countless Biffy fans and fanatics have had tattooed since 2007.

Tracks like Machines and Folding Stars obviously stick out as slow songs in the live set but more than that – they add an emotional depth to Biffy’s live shows, which has been expanded in recent years with tracks like Many of Horror and Re-arrange, which now feel crucial to the band’s performances, including now iconic Reading and T in the Park headline slots.

The best indicator of how important the record is to Biffy and their fans can be seen on the left rib of all 3 band members and of countless fans: a tattoo of the missing puzzle piece has become a badge of honour for Biffy fans and it’s easy to see why: Puzzle feels nothing short of Biffy Clyro’s most important album.


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Looking Back At…BLACKENED SKY by BIFFY CLYRO

Written by Andrew Barr (@weeandreww)

In 2017, it’s hard to imagine Biffy Clyro as anything but the topless, tattooed rock titans who churn out landmark festival headline slots with ease. After playing 2 of the best headline sets in recent memory at Reading and Leeds in 2013 and in 2016, with the small matter of releasing chart-topping 7th album Ellipsis in 2016, Biffy have established themselves as one of the biggest rock bands in the country, as well as arguably the most exciting band in the upper echelons of modern rock music.

However, Biffy’s ascent to the top of these stages was anything but straightforward. If their journey to the top of rock music could be represented by climbing a mountain, Simon Neil, James Johnston and Ben Johnston would have rejected the obvious route of the man-made path, in favour of scaling the most treacherous, hilly surface. 15 years ago, at the very beginning of Biffy’s long and difficult ascent was debut album Blackened Sky, released to little fanfare on indie label Beggar’s Banquet.

BSBC

One of the many qualities that Biffy’s legions of fans adore them for is their originality, their inventiveness and sometimes straight-up weirdness. Blackened Sky, while flawed and not the finished article by any stretch of the imagination, was a clear marker of Biffy’s immense potential and Simon Neil’s complex, time signature-bending songwriting abilities.

As for the record’s flaws, they are not major by any stretch, and the band themselves are well aware of these. In a Noisey interview, they were asked to rank their albums and placed Blackened Sky in last place, and Simon Neil said himself “there’s things we would immediately change; there’s that real naivety in not knowing how to make things sound good” with bassist James Johnston following with “We smoked so much hash while we were making it. It’s all so slow.

Despite these shortcomings, Blackened Sky is an enthralling listen from start to finish, and is a record that showcases a more experimental Biffy Clyro than the chart-topping one we know today. There is perhaps no better song (and title) to kick-start Biffy’s recording career than opener Joy.Discovery.Invention. It is a two-part song that most listeners with knowledge of Biffy Clyro would say could only have been written by Simon Neil. The first minute and a half features Neil’s trademark Ayrshire accent singing over finger-picked guitar chords before the song explodes into life for the second half, peaking with an anthemic chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place on one of Biffy’s more recent, commercially successful records.

It would almost be equivocal to sacrilege to speak about the anthemic qualities of Blackened Sky and fail to mention both Justboy and 57. Both these tracks are soaring stadium anthems that somehow fit snugly alongside experimental prog tracks that make up the rest of the record. Justboy especially showcases Simon Neil’s lyrical talent from an early age with the soaring outro of “I am hoping through the dark clouds/ light shall break and bring a bright sky” – a lyric that has been tattooed on countless Biffy fans since the record’s release in 2002. Meanwhile, 57 is perhaps the most “emo” song in Biffy’s entire discography, a breakup song full of heartbreak and vengeance delivered over a roaring guitar riff which encompasses perhaps the best “doo doo doo” singalong of Biffy’s 20-year career. The greatest testament that can be paid to these 2 tracks is that 57 and Justboy still appear commonly on Biffy setlists in 2017 to rapturous reactions from fans, with both tracks showing no signs of aging.

While it would almost be sacrilege to fail to mention 57 and Justboy, it would be almost as criminal to talk about 57 and neglect its more moody and angsty cousin, 27. This track pops up on live setlists more sporadically, and so has gained “hidden gem” status among Biffy fans. Like much of the record, 27 is another breakup track, with a brilliantly dark guitar riff ensuring the verses bubble just below boiling point before the chorus explodes into life with Neil’s vocals backed up by a roar from drummer Ben Johnston, which is present more than a few times on Blackened Sky.

However, while these 3 tracks appear on the odd Biffy setlist, many of the tracks from this debut are just too foreign in comparison with the band’s current material to ever get a run-out in a live show. Biffy like to view their studio albums in trilogies and the trilogy of Blackened Sky, The Vertigo of Bliss and Infinity Land is seen as their wonky experimental phase where the songs would often lack a traditional verse-chorus-verse structure and almost completely eschew standard time signatures and guitar tunings.

While Blackened Sky isn’t as experimental as the two records that followed it, it’s balls-to-the-wall (to borrow a phrase from Simon Neil) heaviness and directness are the qualities which make this so memorable. Kill the Old, Torture Their Young is a 6-minute track which opens with the whispered words “this will kill”, before a guitar riff explodes into life and Simon Neil’s criminally underused scream takes the fore. The Go-Slow rivals the previously mentioned track and shows the strong influence of Nirvana on Biffy’s early material and on this album. The heaviest track on this album is penultimate cut Stress on the Sky, which peaks in a scream-off between Neil and drummer Ben Johnston, where the lyrics are almost indecipherable, but they almost don’t matter; the sheer power of this song alone makes it a standout.

However, elsewhere on the record, the lyrics take up a role of vital importance. Many Biffy fans like to conveniently forget that while Many of Horror (from 2009’s Only Revolutions) has gone down as one of the best rock ballads in recent years, it was also hand-picked by Simon Cowell as Matt Cardle’s X Factor winners single (and was then completely butchered). Despite the cover, the choice to use this song is testament to how stunning Simon Neil’s songwriting and lyricism can be; and there are tracks on Blackened Sky which show these qualities at their very best.

BSBC2

While it is so much more than a break-up album and there are countless facets to the lyrics on this record, Blackened Sky is actually the only Biffy record that has concerned itself with break-up, so many lyrics on this record are less abstract and more direct than on other Biffy releases. The aforementioned 27 features the simple but brilliant imagery of “thoughts once pure are now diluted”. The best lyrics are reserved for the only 2 real ballads on this record, The verses in Christopher’s River should serve as a lesson in lyrical storytelling, while Scary Mary overcomes teenage cliché (what must I have become/to deserve all the shit that you give me?) to close the album on a poignant note, with the record ending on the quite brilliant “give time to your heart/give time to your soul/ release them all”.

On Blackened Sky, Biffy Clyro announced themselves as a band with stratospheric potential, but also one with more than enough talent at present. It places festival-ready anthems comfortably alongside some of the most obscurely brilliant tracks the band has ever written, showcasing the band’s massive potential but also their unwillingness to scale the mountain in any way but their own.

Not bad for a record made by 3 teenage stoners from Kilmarnock.


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Top 50 Songs of 2016

 

 

 

 

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

It’s here! Chuck those negative opinions aside as for the next week we’ll be counting down my musical highlights of the year. While 2016 was full of many negative events (US election, multiple celebrity death, suicide squad, damn daniel etc.), on the other side of the coin music was as entertaining and fascinating as ever. Hip-hop continued to demonstrate its creative power while rock and other genres revitalised themselves to provide us with some of the best singles of their respective artist’s careers.

As always we have the staple “this is my opinion” placeholder to insert before we get cracking on so if there are any songs you think are missing or should be placed higher/lower then keep in mind that this is my list. Since there are 50 tracks to go through, I’ll speed through the first 25 or so and go into a bit more detail as we reach the top 20 picks. With that being said, let’s get the ball rolling…

50. Glue 70 – Casin

49. Crywank – Love

48. Vistas – Sign Language

47. Brand New – I Am A Nightmare

46. Boston Manor -Lead Feet

45. Kevin Devine – Instigator

44. SBTRKT – Let Them In

43. Run The Jewels – Talk To Me

42. Fake Boyfriend – Bumtown

41. Parquet Courts – Dust

40. Pale Kids – Not Listening

39. Blink-182 – Cynical

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tC97caHUgKk

38. Weezer – Jacked Up

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJOsRoY-na0

37. Frightened Rabbit – Die Like A Rich Boy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es8wQcKrrhA

36. Jamie T- Tescoland

35. Hovvdy – Try Hard

34. Honeyblood – Love Is A Disease

33. Skepta – Man

32. Metallica – Spit Out The Bone

31. Young Thug – RiRi

30. Enter Shikari – Hoodwinker

29. Touche Amore – Displacement

28. Kendrick Lamar – untitled 03

27. Biffy Clyro – In The Name Of The Wee Man

26. Sweet White – Genine

https://soundcloud.com/sweet-white/genine-1

25. Joyce Manor – Eighteen

24. Death Grips – 3 Bedrooms In A Good Neighborhood 

23. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dark Necessities 

22. Twin Atlantic – Gold Elephant, Cherry Alligator

21. Mean Jeans – Michael Jackson Was Tight

20. The 1975 – Somebody Else

Trust me, I’m just as surprised as you that The 1975 are making an appearance on this list. Whilst their latest album was a double-edged sword, only just managing to provide more killer than filler, when the band delivered something good it was really fucking good. See Somebody Else for example, a song that dabbles into the topic of modern day romance that frontman, with the hand of some vocal manipulation, executes brilliantly.

19. Charli XCX – Trophy

The ultimate pump up song of 2016, Charli XCX continues her reign as one of the most likeable female vocalists in music right now with a fantastic combination of 00’s club music and peculiar beats.

18. Radiohead – Daydreaming

Beautifully minimalistic and driven solely by piano alongside some glitzy chimes with a Jamie XX flare to them, Daydreaming was the standout track on Radiohead’s triumphant return A Moon Shaped Pool: a calm, borderline lullaby that dips its toes in fearsome waters before diving head first into them during the climax.

17. Bon Iver – 33 “GOD”

Showing off the majority of 22, A Million’s religious subtext, 33 “GOD” is a showcase of Bon Iver’s experimental take on their latest record packaged alongside the delicate rock they’ve mastered since their debut For Emma, Forever Ago.

16. Blood Orange – Best To You

Providing some of the best R&B in recent memory, Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound hit its peak four tracks in with Best To You. Featuring a stunning vocal performance from Empress Of, Dev Hynes showed off just how good he is at mixing production and songwriting together.

15. Real Friends – Mess

A pop punk song that has lyrics that manage to be fresh for the act due to being about something other than a break up?! Revolutionary! All jokes aside, the crisp production value along with a catchy as all hell chorus makes the track feel like Real Friends have been working hard on their songwriting capabilities since their debut record and, despite what they’re saying in the public eye, are making efforts to progress as a band.

14. Codist – Puddle

Glasgow band Codist came out with their debut record all the way back in January and continued to be one of my favourites throughout 2016. My personal favourite track off of Nuclear Family had to be Puddle that harks back to Blackened Sky era Biffy with some equally beautiful lyrics about “why you can feel your insides glow”.

13. Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things

The shortest track by far on this list, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein’s titular theme tune to Netflix’s surprise hit series Stranger Things is, much like the show itself, a total love letter to 80’s electronica with ominous synths lulling you into a sense of dread.

12. American Football – My Instincts Are The Enemy

Showing that the band still had what it takes to retain relevance in a genre that has long since evolved since their one and only record, American Football showed they deserve all the praise they get with their second LP. My Instincts Are The Enemy is a testament to the intricacy this band can provide with just three instruments, pulling off smooth and satisfying tempo changes and delivering beautiful lyrics as if they had never been away.

11. Schoolboy Q – Groovy Tony 

Schoolboy Q may have given us a pretty lacklustre LP in 2016 but he made sure we weren’t left empty handed with Groovy Tony, drenched in eerie production and driven by one of the most aggressive sounding flows in hip-hop.

10. Frank Ocean – Nikes

WE IN THE TOP 10 NOW BABY! The musical Where’s Waldo Mr Frank Ocean returned this year with his long awaited Blonde that kicks off with one of the strongest tracks of his career. Nikes modifies Ocean’s vocals into unrecognisable territory, delivering lines about lost ones and consumerism with a minimalistic background which needs to be listened to for it to be fully experienced.

9. Danny Brown – When It Rain

Not only did Detroit’s prodigal son Danny Brown deliver the best record of his career, arguably one of the greatest hip-hop albums in the past decade, but he managed to shake up his tried and tested sound on top of that. Much like Groovy Tony, When It Rain cranks up that ominous notch up to 11 and packs the visceral imagery to back it up.

8. Moose Blood – Knuckles

Arguably the best track Mooseblood have delivered thus far, Knuckles embodies everything the band have been great at since their debut: providing a killer hook with beautiful lyrics and vocals. While the majority of the band’s sophomore effort is far more grounded in pessimism, Knuckles seems to hit a major realist chord and wonderfully so.

7. PUP – DVP

Unlike other acts of the genre who do a lot of rocking but very little growing up, PUP manage to nail the topic of maturity on DVP which flows seamlessly on from the aforementioned If This Tour… into an even more anthemic style on record The Dream Is Over. Addressing how they handle issues, in this case getting “so drunk that I can’t speak”, as well as others telling them to grow up, the track manages to keep a positive vibe going in its instrumentals whilst juggling some of the darker lyrics on here.

6. James Blake ft Bon Iver – I Need A Forest Fire

While James Blake’s latest record was sub par at best, there was a diamond in the rough in the form of I Need A Forest Fire. Combining Bon Iver’s beautiful vocals alongside Blake’s versatile singing is a genius concept and is wonderfully executed, managing to explore the .topic of new beginnings with total ease.

5. Chance The Rapper – Blessings

It’s hard to argue that 2016 belonged to anyone but if I had to place a bet on it, my money would be on Chance The Rapper. Colouring Book was one of the most enjoyable listens of the year with bucketloads of optimism and hope in a year that very much needed it. Blessings pretty much embodies the album’s core message better than any other track does. A gospel influence is felt not only in its sound but its lyrical content: lines about redemption, fatherhood and faith are subtle with the main hook from Jamila Woods being infectiously catchy.

4. Childish Gambino – Redbone

No artist this year transformed quite like Childish Gambino. Swapping out hip-hop for funk/soul/R&B music is an impossible risk but Gambino somehow survived the transition, quality intact. Redbone shows this perfectly, displaying a wonderful use of vocoder and the aforementioned funk element that made Awaken My Love one of the most refreshing listens of 2016.

3. David Bowie – Lazarus

The loss of David Bowie was one of many celebrity deaths to occur in 2016 but was the one that no doubt hit the hardest. Lazarus pretty much acts as a foreshadowing to it all with lyrics such as “look up here, I’m in heaven” managing to evoke a tear or two out of even the most casual Bowie fan. While it may be a difficult listen considering the context, Lazarus stood out well before the passing of Bowie, providing the perfect balance of instrumentals and Bowie’s unique vocals.

2. The Weeknd – Starboy

Before we get into the top pick of this list, we have but one more track to praise, that being The Weeknd’s Starboy which features on the RnB superstar’s eponymously titled record. Featuring a backing beat that sounds like a less feisty but equally enjoyable Yeezus feature, the partnership with Daft Punk means it’s no real surprise that Starboy finds itself so high up on a best tracks of 2016 list.

1. Kanye West – Real Friends

While The Life of Pablo was an enjoyable albeit messy release, it undoubtedly features the best song Kanye West has released since Runaway. Real Friends puts Mr West in his most vulnerable position since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as he voices his guilt regarding friends and family over a beautifully tragic sounding beat. Think Aphex Twin entwined with heartbreak. The song ends with a poignant howl that evokes the same sadness and, in a way, isolation that we have become accustomed to with Kanye’s more personal tracks. Sources say that when the track was first released, the title was missing the word “friends”. In a twisted way, it’s both a relief to hear Kanye sounding the most real he has in years whilst it’s also uncomfortable to witness the inner turmoil he’s experiencing that has only since got worse with his recent inauguration into a psychiatric ward.

 

 

 

 

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