Scottish band Biffy Clyro has just released A Celebration of Endings (14 August 2020; 14th Floor / Warner Music), their ninth studio album, and it is like a breath of fresh air.
The record is clearly in Biffy Clyro’s distinctive style, which in some ways is a contradiction in terms, because the band’s music is so full of surprises and inventive twists. It is also a refreshingly guitar-driven poppy and anthemic album, which feels as if it will grow on fans and newcomers alike with each listen.
In most bands it is fundamental that the drum and bass section work tightly together and it makes one wonder how helpful it is that those two roles in Biffy Clyro are played by Ben and James Johnston, who are twins. Lead vocalist and Fender strat afficionado Simon Neil, on the other hand, was aided in his efforts to attend to every musical detail by producer Rich Costey; and as a result each and every instrument sounds sharp and distinct.
The album kicks off with the rousing North Of No South, which segues smoothly from raucous cacophony to sweet melody in an instant. ‘There’s nothing above us, below us are only corpses’ the band opine, before rhetorically asking in the refrain ‘can you feel it?’
Next up is the piano-driven ballad The Champ, which in contrast opens with a lovely melody but tells the story of a relationship in steep decline. This is followed in succession by two of the album’s oustanding tracks, Weird Leisure, which is something like an exploration of untempered hedonism, and Tiny Indoor Fireworks, on which Neil ‘prays for the better days’.
Heartbreak is further explored on the piano-led Space, which could become another anthemic stadium favourite; while End Of and Instant History address broader social issues such as discrimination and rotten societies.
The Pink Limit has been placed towards the album’s end and could easily be imagined as a closing number to a live concert, while Opaque is much more sentimental.
Cop Syrup, the thrilling six minute album closer, is like a roller coatster ride at some crazy amusement park. ‘Fuck everybody, fuck everybody, woohoo!’ Neil screams out loud in what has been described as a ‘Mozart meets metal’ belter. The song unexpectedly pivots from a noisy Nirvana-style vibe to a sublime instrumental section and provides a highly appropriate finish to A Celebration of Endings.
During a period where many have been forced to stay at home Biffy Clyro’s latest offering is like a trip to the beach: it offers both crashing waves and quieter moments, but best of all it is a very welcome cool breeze of fresh air in what has otherwise been a tense and stifling summer.