“FUCK EVERYBODY / FUCK EVERYBODY / WOO!” – no, not a leaked Dominic Cummings memo, but the closing screams of Biffy Clyro frontman Simon Neil on the epic ‘Cop Syrup’, the six-minute finale and highlight of the Scottish trio’s ninth album ‘A Celebration Of Endings’. If there was ever a band to have lived by that mantra and done things their way, it’s affectionately monicker-ed ‘The Biff’. It’s not a nihilistic message, though: it’s about ripping up the rulebook and doing what feels right.
Across their first three albums, the often-shirtless Kilmarnock pals traded in a twisted brand of poppy post-hardcore – anthemic enough to make them mid-afternoon festival favourites, but always with a perverse pleasure in marrying their sweet hooks to jarring time signatures, wonky riffs and baffling lyrics (“Look at slow motion asleep at the door,” Neil sagely implored on 2002’s ‘Joy.Discovery.Invention’). It seemed as if they may forever be destined to evade the mainstream. Who could have predicted that they had the Number Two pop-rock hit ‘Puzzle’ (2007) up their sleeves?
Since then they’ve balanced their status as arena rockers with that early penchant for experimentalist. It also seems that 2019’s strange, sprawling and cinematic ‘Balance, Not Symmetry’ allowed Biffy to clear the decks and exorcise some of their more over-indulgent tendencies. The result, the 11-track ‘A Celebration Of Endings’, is the band’s most concisely satisfying audio adventure since 2009’s ‘Only Revolutions’.
The album finds Neil looking outside of himself for lyrical inspiration more than ever. The concept here is that after society has accelerated to the point of collapse, we’ve reached an impasse where we should lay the bad news to rest, learn from our mistakes and head into an enlightened new beginning.
This was, surprisingly, all written before COVID-19 and the social and political uprisings we’ve seen in recent months. The playful opening notes of ‘North Of No South’ usher in much-needed brightness before building to an almighty sci-fi rock banger with riffs that Muse would kill for. Setting the tone, Neil screams of recalibrating his moral compass and shunning norms to pursue a more righteous path: “We know what we’re worth and we’ve removed the shroud”. ‘The Champ’, the closest that Biffy have come to penning a Bond theme, is another mini-manifesto for not letting the fuckers get you down: “Don’t give me that bullshit catchphrase – ‘It was better in my day’”. Amen.
‘A Celebration Of Endings’ courses with energy and effervescence. The festival-ready ‘Tiny Indoor Fireworks’ is a bubblegum gem on which Neil “prays for the better days”, while rock ballad ‘Worst Type Of Best Possible’ finds him “hoping out for a peacetime” and “holding out for a change” . ‘End Of’ channels gothic post-punk as a feral he insists that there is “no time for ceremony now / ‘Cause it’s the end of the start”.
This is the kind of album that really makes you miss losing your shit at a festival. ‘Weird Leisure’ is a fierce desert rock beast and ‘The Pink Limit’ features the kind of bruising riff that’ll make it an ideal Biffy encore. Of course, the record isn’t all shirtless bluster. There’s a sweetness to the orchestral ‘Space’, which could be lifted from a Disney soundtrack, while the lighters-up loveliness of ‘Opaque’ shows off the Biff’s knack for a tear-jerker and will sit well with fans of 2009 weepie ‘Many Of Horror’.
‘A Celebration Of Endings’ is a record of extremes. At one end there’s the Bring Me The Horizon-style, trance-driven apocalypse bop ‘Instant History’; at the other there’s aforementioned metal-meets-Mozart belter ‘Cop Syrup’. It’s truly a statement for these dumpster fire times, but even if you put aside the lofty notions of rebirth, you’ll be left with an album that’s just really fucking fun. Let this album into your life and enjoy a blast of optimism. Maybe – just maybe – things are gonna be alright.
Release date: August 14
Record label: 14th Floor / Warner