Is a compilation of their early singles really the best introduction to Simon and co?
In 2001, Biffy Clyro played the graveyard slot at a club night held at Camden Palace (now KOKO). It was a shift almost every new band visiting the capital was expected to play, however the Ayrshire trio only managed about two and a half songs before being forced offstage by gear-related gremlins. A couple of years later, during one of their first headline tours, they admitted they thought they’d blown it that night and weren’t sure if they’d get another shot. Now, somehow, they find themselves so bankable their old label is reissuing the singles from their first three albums in one collection.
Yet, because much of their ascent was done away from the glare of media attention and fuelled by one of indie’s most fervent fanbases, it feels like they’re newcomers to the top table. The Pigeon Detectives might be boorishly unavoidable today, but can you really envision their singles collection coming out after their next album? Musically, there’s little to dislike. ‘Blackened Sky’’s ‘Justboy’ and ‘57’ retain their stunning, written-in-blood intensity and are perhaps the most timeless songs in the Biffy catalogue. The material from ‘The Vertigo Of Bliss’ has aged slightly less well and while ‘Eradicate The Doubt’ and ‘Questions And Answers’ are fine indie-rock songs in their own right, they suffer from being placed in such close proximity with ‘Blackened Sky’’s delicate crunch and ‘Infinity Land’’s sophistication. The latter’s ‘Glitter And Trauma’ is the quintessential Biffy anthem; at once gentle, brutal and effortlessly engaging.
As a chronological collection, it avoids any subjectivity; wise, considering every fanboy’s tracklisting would be different. But therein lies the problem: Biffy are an albums band. They and their fans have always been part of the same gang, and the joy of seeing the
12 songs the band would have chosen to sum themselves up would have rendered such a collection essential to newcomers and an important curio for the old guard. And despite the enduring quality of each song – which confirms them as one of the most consistently interesting bands this decade – it doesn’t quite capture the essence of the Biff. It may hold some attraction to someone who’s heard them on the radio and wants to know the basics, but Biffy deserve so much more.