Album #217: Biffy Clyro – A Celebration of Endings

  • Released: 2020
  • Origin: Kilmarnock, Scotland
  • Label: 14th Floor/Warner
  • Best Track: Worst Type of Best Possible

Since what’s widely seen as their breakthrough album, 2007’s Puzzle, I’ve found Biffy Clyro difficult to understand, and harder still to enjoy.

Their first three albums – Blackened Sky (2002), The Vertigo of Bliss (2003) and Infinity Land (2004) – were wonderful. They had drive, power, rawness, inventiveness and melody. With Puzzle, however, they seemed to lose a lot of that overnight and become pretty middle-of-the-road fodder for Radio 1. I haven’t listened to much of their work since, but the bits I’ve heard have left me underwhelmed.

On their newly released eighth album A Celebration of Endings, there does appear to some attempt to recapture the spiky riffs and time signature playfulness of their early years. The problem is, their music is now so overblown, washed out with needless synth and naff harmonies, that it feels like it’s just there as a token, and is incongruous with the polished sound they’ve developed.

To me, Simon Neil’s vocals have immatured with age, becoming increasingly whiny and American. On the early albums, you could hear that he was Scottish, but his singing now sounds homogenised. That’s before we discuss some terrible lyrics, like rhyming “far” with “abracadabra” on ‘Tiny Indoor Fireworks’, and now and again he just seems to throw in a ‘fuck’ or a ‘shit’ for the hell of it. I’m no prude but it’s like it’s been done just to get a little “explicit lyrics” note next to it on Spotify and Apple Music.

High points are few and far between. ‘Worst Type of Best Possible’ is, aptly, about the best of a bad lot of songs, and I was impressed by the drumming in ‘The Pink Limit’. Neil remains a skilled songwriter as shown on the soft-rocky ballads ‘Space’ and ‘Opaque’, but both are a bit of a yawn, and demonstrate why the band went from underground MTV2 racket-making favourite, to having a song covered by an X-Factor winner.

Closer ‘Cop Syrup’ tries to up the intensity with its screamo-style vocals, but sadly just turns into a mess with a pointlessly long outro, like an ice-cream left out in the sun.

Maybe my tastes have changed too, and I might not enjoy the first three albums as much if they came out today, but in conclusion, Biffy continue to lose me. I’m sure they’ll get over it as they’ve gained plenty, and seems most critics think a lot more of A Celebration of Endings than I did.

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