Biffy Clyro’s The Myth of the Happily Ever After (22 October, 2021/Warner and 14th Floor) was produced shortly after A Celebration of Endings, with these latest songs reportedly being ‘left overs’. However, what might have been a hodgepodge collection of B-sides is nothing of the sort because the band retreated to their farm in Ayrshire, Scotland, to rework many of the tracks in the context of the pandemic. And, in the process, the songs came to act as a counterpoint to those on the companion album.
The Myth of the Happily Ever After could have been darker - and it certainly can’t be described as cheery - but the nihilism is this time skewed in a different direction. The previous record for example finished with the words “Fuck everybody – Wooh!”, while this one closes with a plea to not waste time on pointless conflict: “We’re only here once. Please give it all you’ve got before the rhythm stops… Give love to everyone.”
“In the last year, if there’s one thing that we’ve fucking discovered it’s the things that we should value and the things that we should cherish,” says Biffy Clyro lead guitarist and vocalist Simon Neil. “A lot of other stuff is just extraneous noise that we can put into the background. I don’t want to have anything that’s unnecessary kicking around. Emotionally, the way is just to look for loving in your life. I sound like a total fucking hippie, but it was a year for that!”
In adopting this approach Neil clearly had the support of brothers Ben Johnston (drums and vocals), James Johnston (bass and vocals) and producer Adam Noble.
The album kicks off with a dreamy and superficially comforting introduction to the track DumDum, before the lyrics soon turn nightmarish: “Life couldn't be better, I will ignore all of the bodies piled up at my door, All my convictions, they soften the blow, Softened for no one but me, This is how we fuck it from the start.”
A Hunger In Your Haunt begins with Neil spitting venom on both his white Strat (which on the accompanying video doesn’t stay white for long), and his lyrics “It's been dark a while so where's the fucking dawn? Wisdom no morе, eloquence no morе, All I loved has broken down and gone to seed”. Denier, on the the other hand, features a disarming clash of punk music and gooey lyrics: “Say that you care for me, you make me feel like anything is possible […] I need somebody to love, I need somebody to care for and it's you”; but it is very catchy, and rewards repeat listens. Similarly uplifting is Witch’s Cup, which sonically surprises at every turn.
Interestingly, the image of a cross on the album cover is referenced on the following tracks Holy Water and Errors In The History Of God, which brings an entirely different dimension to the album. The latter obliquely suggests that consciousness was one of God’s mistakes: “There's a mystery at large, and the story should be beautiful, I'm ready to explode…We're errors in the history of God,” Neil sings, backed by the Johnston brothers’ tight rhythm section.
Haru Urara apparently references a Japanese racehorse known as “the shining star of losers everywhere” for continuing to give its all in the face of constant defeat, and this is reflected in the music that shifts from the morose to the heroic. I can’t help but think that the title of closer Slurpy Slurpy Sleep Sleep must have been inspired by Middle of the Road’s 1971 hit Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep, but that is where the similarity ends, as this rocking barnstormer is full of raw power and provides an upbeat message to end on.
Biffy Clyro’s ninth album never fails to stimulate, and shows that the band continue to be a restless creative force. The Myth Of The Happily Ever After is often dark and nihilistic lyrically but, like the music, it frequently surprises with an upbeat message of hope. In this sense it is a strange album for strange times.