Is there a less thrilling concept than a ‘sister record’? When, last summer, Biffy Clyro told NME that they had 15 songs that “didn’t make” their last album – 2020’s ‘A Celebration Of Endings’, which was completed pre-pandemic – you’d be forgiven for not leaping at the thought of a record living in the shadow of its sibling. Who goes to a restaurant and asks for the off-cuts?
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Fortunately, the Scottish trio wanted this album to shine on its own. Forced from the road by the virus this year, they rewrote much of what they already had in order to deal with the new reality we all faced. Armed with a lot of spare time and no pressure, they ripped up the rulebook. From the off, with ‘DumDum’’s mantra of “This is how we fuck it from the start” set to a sweet, spectral Frightened Rabbit-style soundscape, it feels like a fresh start.
“Biffy” and “subtlety” are not often words you hear in the same sentence, but here’s a record defined by nuance. The wonky electro and simmering rock of ‘Separate Missions’ give the album space to breathe, while ‘Existed’ sets light Kraftwerk textures to silky Justin Timberlake soulfulness. The rock crescendo of ‘Haru Urara’ is tasteful due to the R&B vibes that precede it, and the acoustic balladry of ‘Holy Water’ could have easily have followed the lighters-in-the-air route of Space’, from ‘A Celebration…’, but instead takes a surprisingly dark left-turn. It’s all controlled, but certainly never dull.
Sure, the record kicks off, as on the textbook Biff-rock of ‘A Hunger In Your Haunt’, the desert-prog of ‘Denier’, the ‘80s sci-fi adventure of ‘Errors In The History Of God’ and the deranged glitch-core of ‘Slurpy Slurpy Sleep Sleep’. But this time they’ve reined it in a bit. Even the Queen-meets-High-School-Musical pomp of ‘Witch’s Cup’ is delivered with a wink.
While ‘A Celebration…’ ended with the words “FUCK EVERYBODY – WOO!”, this one closes with the message: “Love everybody”. They sound a little wiser here, having learned a lesson or two. Adventurous in sound, buoyant in spirit and with ideas aplenty, Biffy’s 10th album is one hell of a happy accident. It certainly beats anything we took up in lockdown.
What could have been a hodgepodge of would-be B-sides and ideas found down the back of the sofa has turned out rather differently. Yes, ‘The Myth Of The Happily Ever After’ outshine its predecessor, but it could also – ironically – be the most cohesive Biffy album to date.
Label: Warner/14th Floor
Release date: October 22