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Biffy Clyro are probably one the UK’s biggest bands. Sold out tours, top festival slots and a little show at Wembley are enough proof of it. It’s clear that the band hit the mainstream when 2007’s 'Puzzle' was released as the band opted for less of their angular, irregular and shouting vibe that was constructed over previous albums. Which is better though? Is 'Puzzle' where the band have fitted all the pieces into place or is the earlier ‘Infinity Land’ where Biffy truly lie?
Two of Already Heard’s writers, Michael Brown and James Berclaz-Lewis go head to head to tell you which album they think is best and why.
Mikey will be defending the honor of 2007 album 'Puzzle,' whilst James will be explaining why 'Infinity Land' from 2004 is the best Biffy Clyro album.
Puzzle (by Michael Brown)
Every song on this album is good. EVERY SONG. Biffy certainly have a knack for writing good songs and so it made sense that stuff a bit more radio friendly would eventually form out of those 3 brilliant Scottish minds.
It must be hard to actually dislike this album. I mean, those opening 3 songs, man! 'Living Is A Problem…' which is epic with those strings and that intro, the absolute blast of 'Saturday Superhouse' before we’re gently dipped into 'Who's Gotta Match' that plods along until that final section which drags you in, completely overwhelms your mind and body and then reminds you that Biffy can bring that big sounding rock whenever they damn well please.
There’s penty of riffs to drown yourself in. There’s grooves for you to shake your booty to. There’s vocal lines for you to mimic, standing on your bed with your hairbrush/broom/microphone shaped object and pretend you’re selling out Wembley to a horde of adoring fans (We’ve all done it, right? Well I have. No shame).
You can’t deny a good album if you hear one even if you think that the band have ‘sold out’ or some other kind of ridiculous excuse. They’re the same band; the same 3 Scottish blokes who you’ve loved before. Of course tastes and compositions are going to change over time as you’re influenced by the world around you; new music, new culture, new experiences and this reflects into the music they produce. If you listen in you can still hear those older influences and sound delving in and out for quick bursts that you’ve got to grab and saviour.
You want more evidence of the band knowing who they are? Well the album cover features a man, drawn all over with the outlines of puzzle pieces and one piece in his side out of place from his body on the floor. Now, I point you to exhibit B, in the song 'Glitter And Trauma' with the lyric 'your skin will break into jigsaw pieces of meat'. if that isn’t a nod to what the band have achieved so far and remembering their past, then I don’t know what is.
The word euphoric comes to mind as well. This album is the embodiment of the band wanting to reach new levels, new heights. That may sound modest but the band reach that in such a humble respect. Anthems, if you will, like 'Now I'm Everyone' brilliantly showcase the potential for the band to absolutely captivate the world that is easily theirs for the taking.
Be proud that Biffy Clyro have made such a brilliantly beautiful and momentous British album that has seen them reach heights that they most definitely deserve.
Infinity Land (by James Berclaz-Lewis
For bands who casually sell-out stadiums, three years is the minimum requirement for the conception and completion of an album along with its necessary globe-spanning tour. For Biffy Clyro, that same period of time was perceived as an opportunity to cram a maximum of music and relentlessly tour the UK in small, sweaty venues packed with the zealous community of fans they’ve succeeded in nurturing since their beginnings. Their debut ‘Blackened Sky’ was a murky pop-rock album heavily influenced by 90s emo (think Mineral) in which their distinctive three-part vocal duties, clever song-writing tricks and a love for climactic sections all made their first appearances. ‘Vertigo of Bliss’, as a consequence, constituted the band’s first “drastic change” of sorts with considerable delving into experimental territory with progressive time-signatures, key-changes, Simon Neil’s peppered use of screaming vocals and expansive song structures.
My intention here, however, is to deservedly laud what I will argue is the Scottish heroes’ masterpiece: third album ‘Infinity Land’. From ‘Glitter & Trauma’s tongue-in-cheek electronic start to the crisp poem amidst the cacophony at the end of ‘Pause It And Turn It Up’, ‘Infinity Land’ uses the experimental explorations of their previous album and applies them to darker subject matter along with sharper songwriting. Indeed, where ‘Vertigo Of Bliss’ gladly saw the band make sharp musical turns at every occasion with every song effectively a compilation of eccentric ideas, ‘Infinity Land’ adds a better focused approach and an eloquent grasp of the style the band had been building over the past three years. The closest example of Biffy creating a punk track, ‘Strung To Your Ribcage’ combines short, rousing outbursts with methodic angular sections packed in under three minutes. ‘My Recovery Injection’s reggae-timed opening leads into an amalgamation of fuzzy bass, hammer-ons, warm open-chorded half-choruses, sharp staccato sections and a hypnotic ending.
‘Atrocity’ is a dark and twisted ballad/musical poem of sorts driven by Neil’s haunting lyrics. ‘There Is No Such Thing As Jaggy Snake’ and ‘Some Kind Of Wizard’ provide the album’s most eccentric sections with both the heaviest (almost violent) aspects of their style combining with elegant melodies and unusual chord progressions. On first listen, most perceived ‘Only One Word Comes To Mind’ as something of an unusual proposition from the Scottish trio, with its palm-muted harmonics, stream of alternately dissonant and eminently melodic succession of chords, and the most prominent display of two-part harmonies interplay on the album, yet it is arguably one of the most beautiful compositions in Biffy’s discography. Closing with a trio of the most experimental tracks, the band play with medium-tempo staccato ('Weapons Are Concealed'), a complete mish-mash of genres that is both mess and genius ('Kids From Kibble And The Fist Of Light') and an epic yet intimate conclusion ('Pause It And Turn It Up').
‘Infinity Land’ is such a success because while “experimental”, the band were no longer “experimenting” and instead focused their newly-acquired capacity to combine myriads of eclectic movements within single tracks toward create a strong album both unique in its sound but elegant in its execution, something that lacked in their previous album. An outstanding example of the rise in quality of the British alternative rock scene that ensued (and continues to this day), ‘Infinity Land’s relevance should never be in doubt now that it stands tall as the last vestige of the first part of Biffy Clyro’s career.
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