The rowdy Scottish trio’s seventh album is explosive, explorative and personal
How do you keep a marriage exciting after 20 years? That’s the challenge facing Biffy Clyro as they enter their third decade as a band and join the ranks of Oasis, Muse and Coldplay by chalking up seven albums. “We don’t want to be a reliable band,” Simon Neil told NME recently. “No one wants good old f**king Biffy Clyro.”
Last time out they took their bid to always grow to a new extreme with a 78-minute concept double album (2013’s ‘Opposites’), and still hit Number One. And so ‘Ellipsis’ begins the next evolution of a band who always work in three-album cycles. This is Biffy Clyro Chapter III: The Candid Years. Musically more experimental and lyrically more biographical, it’s the story of the past 24 months in Simon Neil’s life. The promotion around ‘Opposites’ ignited a recurrence of the frontman’s depression, compounded by a series of personal setbacks and bereavements. For a short while, he lost his way. ‘Ellipsis’ is the exploration of his demons but also their expulsion – his fight to rediscover his edge and his band’s position.
Half of it is pure urgency and anger. So you have ‘Wolves Of Winter’, a direct swipe at the band’s detractors: a series of barbed defences thrown from the ramparts of Castle Clyro (“We’ve achieved so much more than you possibly thought we could”). There’s ‘Friends And Enemies’, about colleagues who’ve betrayed them (“With a friend as good as you, who needs enemies?”), and ‘Animal Style’ (“I don’t know who I can trust / I’m teetering on the edge”). Those are your fearsome festival-headline-slot bangers.
The other half is a series of mellower, personal moments that flourish. ‘Medicine’ explores Neil’s own treatment (“I rolled up my medicine to forget me”), ‘People’ (“After all that we’ve been through /I didn’t think we’d survive”), and ‘Rearrange’, an open letter to his wife for bringing him through this period of darkness.
Musically it’s explorative, too. ‘Small Wishes’ is a country song about Scottish independence. There are subtle trap beats all over the album, and even a children’s choir. The whole feel of the album is fun, shackle-free, uninhibited, but still masterfully crafted. In fact, by opening themselves up Biffy Clyro have captured the spirit of a brand-new band again.