Taking a lot back at Biffy’s brilliance in 2007
Label: 14th Floor.
A thunder strike of optimism hit the Scottish music scene in 2007. To make waves and to break the over skin of the underground, Ayrshire band Biffy Clyro, redefined their sound and finally broke the latch to the mainstream. Not a band to haggle the tail of commercialism, they quickly pushed through in a proud way, in a noble fashion. Led by the enigmatic Simon Neil, the act are now a force to be reckoned with, an outfit playing colossal venues and bars, respectively.
And it was a record of emotion and bubbling truth that got them to where they are now. Yes, their records prior were all cohesive and structured with great wordplay and instrumental bite, but it was 2007’s Puzzle that rapidly ascended the band to the stars and beyond. 2002’s Blackened Sky was the debut record which made Biffy Clyro an underground phenomenon, a record raw and punchy, developed to create spontaneity amidst the small crowds. Then, a year later, The Vertigo Of Bliss was released.
The Vertigo Of Bliss was a stab at ingenuity and rage. Simon Neil and co engineered a direction and sound which truly created a bigger a fan base and put Biffy Clyro on the edge of the map. Although it was a collection of great songs pulling at the curtains of superstardom, it still roamed the underground. But, in 2004, Infinity Land birthed a new sound, a polished, alternative push for success.
As Infinity Land started a new trend in the Biffy Clyro camp, it would take the band 3 years to create their seminal opus. A magnum opus, one bridging the gap between great and groundbreaking. Puzzle dramatically tugged at the heartstrings and its narrative burst catered for the sophisticated, the enraged, the dreamers, and the hopeful. Simon Neil sounded like a man with a new lease of life, a lyrical weaver who spotted that his lyrics needed to shine brighter.
The lyrics shone brightly, and the instrumentals were technical in their delivery. We expected that from Biffy Clyro as they’re competent instrumentalists, twisting and designing structural brilliance. Puzzle was structured perfectly, at points raw, impeccable. This refined composition didn’t alienate or drive fans off the beaten path, it brought the faithful together in unison. There was a synergy between the band members too, a togetherness that is as strong today.
Puzzle in all its glory, was Biffy Clyro’s darkest and most emotive LP. From its blinding and stunning commencement to its cathartic conclusion, it staggered the musical landscape and made the act a household name. Opening track, Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies, started the onslaught of brazen guitar lines and empowering vocals. Neil sings with intent and adrenaline flooding his bloodstream. He bellows ‘‘I pray to God that you’re right before my eyes, Bathed in white light with halos in your eyes’’ These lines showcases his remarkable range at mustering up wonder.
Saturday Superhouse is another staple on Puzzle. Neil again uses his voice of reason, a statement of intent. The instrumentals are on point here, dramatic and abrasive. ‘’If we don’t know where we belong, It’ll make no difference from where we started, Look out kid because here it comes, You’re not the lucky ones’’ Neil again, shows his lyrical punch in a melodramatic, but valid way.
Emotion is fundamental on any release, but with Puzzle, Biffy Clyro instilled it progressively into their most imaginative record. The Conversation Is, is a sombre note ‘’Are pills the only way to make myself complete again, ‘’They become the only way to a wonderful life with a happy ending, The conversation is, The conversation is over’’ These lyrics sound like a fight for redemption, a blow to the stomach, a landslide into the void.
Folding Stars is the pinnacle of Puzzle. A song that stretched the musical ability of Biffy Clyro. Such a sober embrace, it catapulted the band into the frame. The simplistic lyrics tell a story ‘’ It ends in a place with no love only hate, And a mirror reflecting the truth, In your eyes, in your face you can’t wash it away, From your cold, cold heart’’
At the end of the tide, there is a song which shudders the spine. A track of substance and full of sorrow. Machines is the concluding swansong. One which epitomises loss and struggle. Neil sings beautifully, eclipsing any great vocal work previously. Truthfully, the track is a heart puller, a candid look at death and someone who falls by the wayside. ‘’I’ve started falling apart I’m not savouring life, Take the pieces and build them skywards, I’ve forgotten how good it could be to feel alive, Take the pieces and build them skywards’’ .
Puzzle automatically placed Biffy Clyro as an elite band. Nowadays the band mix it with the best, conducting themselves in an honest manner, developing records which always have that blend of technical composition and sincere lyricism. After the greatness of Puzzle, the band constructed 3 other records that don’t replicate. Only Revolutions, Opposites, and Ellipsis are records, bound in competence, but haven’t reached the same aura as Puzzle. But with the backing of a great catalogue and millions of fans, they’re still in the ascendancy.
Words by Mark Mcconville