Fresh from the Warners official watermarked stream comes our first listen to the fifth record from Scot titans Biffy Clyro, due next month.
Already heralded by a fair few cries of derision amongst the DiS community, ‘The Captain’ sets up precisely what Only Revolutions represents. There’s a simplistic, almost sea-shanty verse which folds into a massive harmonised chant and terrace-bound chorus (“Somebody help me sing!”). Most striking though is the huge brass orchestration brandished underneath like a brand new weapon to their audience with. A strong start.
That Golden Rule
The second single and, unexpectedly, the hardest track of the whole album. Only Revolutions is nowhere near a return to Biffy of yore – as all the marketing suggests – but this swoops closest to their old hallmarks. A whiplash riff that cracks at a frantic pace, before lurching into a non-starter of a chorus and then those BBC Prom strings thread the whole thing into an exhilarating close.
A stingy, tinny riff loop falls into guitar lines vaguely following Simon’s staccato vocal melody. After gently lulling us into nonplussed security, that itchy riff snaps back with fuzz bass in the pre-chorus before hitting a huge choral goal – Simon’s dodgy lyrics (“In her own creepy world, there’s a girl, there’s a girl by the river”) aside. It escalates, soars and is purely anthemic. The repetitive, welding of a simple four note guitar line to your brain while warped, aching noise swoops in helps slam the outro home, too.
God & Satan
The first of the acoustic led tracks continues to keep everything simple. More lyrical guff from Simon here: “I savour hate as much as I crave love because I’m just a twisted guy”. The song builds from its strummed beginnings into a craftily-built, strings‘n all heart-tugger. In case we haven’t got it by this point, it’s definitely clear Biffy have left deft complexity behind for this record almost entirely.
Born On A Horse
Perhaps the biggest surprise – and a reminder of why Biffy is supporting Muse come the European tour – is this faintly bizarre buzzing bass-synth and woodblock work out with possibly the most hilarious first line ever conceived: “I pronounce it aluminium, because there’s an I next to the u and m.” It’s pure nonsense come the chorus “I’ve never had a lover whose my sister or my brother before.” Taken lightly it’s a slightly silly yet irritatingly catchy number similar to ‘Who’s Got A Match’ from Puzzle. Taken seriously it’ll be an absolute travesty to most long-term Biffy fans which will kill them stone dead in their eyes. Your call. I’m all for FUN myself.
You already know this Top 5 single from last year. Actually one of Biffy’s best from the past two years, it certainly deserves its place in their least cohesive album so far. Individually it’s an arena sized, three-part hit that builds beyond its initial sombre piano intro. As part of Only Revolutions, it signifies the wild divergent pop found throughout and that the record is far lighter and fluffier than the dense and dark Puzzle. Yes, you read that right.
Video: Biffy Clyro: 'Mountains'
The thrumming, tremolo guitars and Simon’s opening gambit “You scratch and you scratch til your face comes away, replaced by a hole or a vortex” sound oddly off kilter and positively violent compared to what’s come before. The song doesn’t develop much further down this path unfortunately and maintains a fairly lightweight, though memorable, chorus. Even the guitar breakdown seems at odds with intentions, like it’s been intentionally watered down, but the high pitched vocal/theremin sound and bizarre trio of parps towards the end remind us who we’re dealing with.
Many Of Horror
Another gentle opening, set upon minor arpeggios, it’s an effective indicator of how Biffy’s rejection of awkward, angular ideas has let their songs breathe. The subtle orchestration underneath, brings far more to the song than on ‘That Golden Rule’. It is likely to become a live favourite a la ‘Folding Stars’ and recalls ‘Christopher’s River’ or ‘As Dust Dances’. A good’un.
Booom, Blast & Ruin
Perhaps the most driven song here, the pure pop punk beginnings – tinny, lo-fi chiming riff before pummelling into full volume – is no diversion. It simply powers along, fairly generically it must be said, with an undramatic chorus. The outro riffs out but otherwise there’s not a whole lot to enthuse about. It still has that slight thrill that Simon Neil’s unaffected voice seems to bring to everything, though. In fact it’s on songs like this where Simon becomes the band’s biggest strength, which is not necessarily a good thing, but at least you know where you are.
Cloud of Stink
Not sure which of the twins are singing the lead vocal here, but it’s another slightly warped example of how they’ve taken up Muse’s tendency to absorb classic rock and pop influences. In fact you can imagine Dave Grohl heading this one, though the massive “whoooooooaaaah” in the background and dynamic trickery keeps you on your toes. Hard to say whether it’s excellent or bewildering. Or both. It’s certainly one of the most exhilarating songs here and another surprise in a record full of them. “I don’t have long!” screams Simon, and it’s tough not to yell along with him.
Know Your Quarry
A bold and rather lovely ballad, it begins with what sounds like a mellotron before striding into a violin plucked chorus. Exceptional lyric fails include “I won’t go where the sun doesn’t shine” and “Our lips should kiss each other”. However, it’s very emotive and proves that electric, orchestrated moments from their back catalogue, like ‘Dairy of Always’ and ‘With Aplomb’, are not gone forever.
The final track on our record company-endorsed, watermarked stream is a charmingly sweet melody upon galloping drums and bass. As Simon’s voice starts hitting heights, you can imagine a huge crowd following him into the night shouting “We only want to make a change with faults and electric noises!” A single squeak of metallic feedback closes the track, abruptly leaving you with a bubblegum flavoured hole to fill.
Only Revolutions, then, is flighty, fluid, amusing, fun, thoroughly pop and unashamedly melodic, even to the point of ridicule. It’s an unexpectedly breezy follow up to what were two pretty dark predecessors. The elemental, refreshing tunes that adorned The Vertigo of Bliss have been implanted directly onto Biffy’s idea of delightful and simplistic arrangements. That it is still uniquely insane throughout is testament to the fact that they may well be lightening up nowadays, garnering hordes of fans in the process, but they are still those three Scottish psychos who can still twist your notion of rock back on itself and have fun doing it. There’s no doubt in my mind this is leaving a lot of earlier fans high and dry, but they haven’t really compromised on what they’ve always been aiming for.
First impression: 7/10