The ‘little band that could’ take it just a LITTLE too far. OUT NOW via Warner Bros Records
Double albums are very rarely a good idea. Even great bands (The Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters, Nine Inch Nails etc.) are prone to ‘waffle on’ a bit with a potential 80+ minutes at their disposal but when ‘not so great bands’ attempt it (The Red Hot Chilli Peppers monumental folly ‘Stadium Arcadium) the results are often disastrous. Biffy Clyro however are a great band, a great band who have truly earned the right to indulge themselves. No modern rock band has toiled quite like Biffy Clyro have toiled. After nearly a decade and a trio of critically lauded but commercially under-looked records their future looked bleaker than a Lars Von Trier film until their major label debut ‘Puzzle’ saw an about turn of their fortunes thanks largely to an incendiary live reputation and a bevy of radio friendly singles which had hardly (until then) been the Glaswegian trio stock in trade.
This is Biffy ‘mark 2′ though and mark 2 specialise in planet sized rock so bombastic it should be making the Foo’s blush. Just a cursory listen to the likes of ‘Biblical’ (a song that just about lives up to its lofty title) and you begin to realise that the quirky, math-rock inflected sketches and thinly veiled oddness of yore have been cast adrift in favour of sing-along chorus’s, melodic immediacy and classic rock vigour. Rather than mourn the loss of ‘old biffy’ though I at first embraced it, this is a band that deserved to be successful after-all. With this album however (their 6th and first number 1 debut) they might have pushed the boat out a little too far, to the extent that many of their more established fans might struggle to swim out and catch it.
That’s not to say that this is a middle of the road album though. In fact ‘The Fog’ is a genuine revelation, a monster of a song that starts life as an 80′s indebted electro-pop song before erupting into a post-rock storm, it’s probably the best (and definitely the most surprising) thing here. Elsewhere though the 20 track album drags noticeably, but then that’s the problem with any double album. What makes it worse here though is that so many of the songs cover well worn tracks, ‘Little Hospitals’ for example is the kind of song Biffy could write in their sleep and ‘Woo Woo’ is a misguided attempt at ‘experimental kitsch’ that just doesn’t work as well as similar experiments they made almost a decade ago on ‘Infinity Land’. When the trio are at full pelt though it’s almost impossible not to get swept along. ‘The Thaw’ and ‘Stingin Belle’ might simply rehash cuts from their last record (‘Many Of Horror’ and ‘That Golden Rule’ respectively) but they sound so fucking massive and you just know they’re going to blow you away live so it’d be rude to complain.
‘Opposites’ has been released in two formats, as the 20 track double album and a single CD 14 track album. Frustratingly though the single CD neglects many of the double records best songs (‘The Fog’ and the mini epic ‘Accident Without Emergency’ especially) so for the extra 2 or 3 quid I’d say it’s definitely worth going with the big mac over the quarter pounder in this case (a half-hearted analogy for quantity over quality that I think I regret). Honestly though this over-stuffed behemoth of a record could have been the definitive modern Biffy Clyro and only a few duffers and repeat offenders keep it from being just that.