Biffy Clyro - Puzzle @ 19 July 2007 07:57 PM
Biffy Clyro had been a band that at some points have shown moments of brilliance, ‘Glitter And Trauma’ and ‘My Recovery Injection’ from previous effort ‘Infinity Land’ are such examples, tracks that show the bands unique approach to their music that can be best described as simple but odd – and this is no criticism, it’s an approach that the band pull off, and pull off quite well. However, it is with this approach that the band falls into the ‘filler’ trap that other bands often do. It’s not that these filler tracks are bad in themselves, it’s that these tracks seem weak when next to ones such as ‘Glitter And Trauma’ et al. So it was with pleasant surprise when I heard first single ‘Saturday Superhouse’, and even more so when I first listened to their fourth release ‘Puzzle’.
Opening track ‘Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies’ is ambitious, brilliant and also frustrating. The introduction alone sums that up, a 1 minute and 25 second instrumental consisting of a punching guitar and orchestra combination, in a rather unusual timing that is perhaps to ambitious, and ends up feeling like its 40 seconds to much. However to over look this track because of its introduction would be a mistake and besides fast-forward can always be used. The operatic vocals that follow further the ambitiousness and act as the true introduction to what is in fact a brilliant track. Following number ‘Saturday Superhouse’ continues in the same vein and that’s the reason that it surprised me so much, the Biffy Clyro I knew wrote these odd tracks that I had mentioned, not the head-banging rock that’s I’d just listened to, although its nice to see the band concentrating on one approach throughout a track. The same rock emphasis is also present later in the album in track ‘Semi-Mental’ another track that has the same head-banging qualities,
In tracks ‘Who’s Got A Match?’, ‘A Whole Child Ago’ and ‘Now I’m Everyone’ Biffy Clyro show a more pop-based outlook, each maintains the simple ideal that the band have done so well, but this time the prominence is on the sing-a-long choruses. A characteristic that before has not been associated with them is now one band has become rather first-rate at and it’s not to long before the listener will be singing ‘I’m a fire and I’ll burn, burn tonight’. In fact ‘Who’s Got A Match?’ has to be the catchiest track I think I’ve ever heard.
In ‘As Dust Dances’, ‘The Conversation Is…’, ‘Love Has A Diameter’ and ‘Folding Star’ the band show the subtle side to album, each track its own ballad, and these are not the typical ballads. Where most bands have one, Biffy Clyro manage four, each one showing the true emotions on the subject matter behind this album, this is also best summed up in final acoustic track ‘Machines’ which acts as a full stop to the album. The subject matter the album is dealing with is the death of singer and guitarist Simon Neil’s mother, that’s without doubt something not to argue with. However while I cannot argue with the subject matter and the method in which it is presented, the problem is this is where Puzzle falls into the same old trap. These tracks are stuck between much more impressive ones and thus become labelled ‘filler’ when clearly they’re not. An example of this would be ‘As Dust Dances’ which is stuck between ‘Saturday Superhouse’ and ‘Who’s Got A Match?’.
Now despite this, this is also with where Puzzle shows it true colours, and we’re talking a full Dulux colour chart here, this is an album that has numerous aspects to it, an album where the band haven chosen not to limit themselves to a single direction and instead have take as several this is best summed up in ‘Get Fucked Stud’ one that manages to cross what seems like three or more directions, from rock, to ballad, to pop, back to rock and besides who can resist another sing-a-long chorus, this time ‘Get fucked stud…’ will be the words the listener will be singing along to. Penultimate track ‘9/15ths’ is the most adventurous album track and where the album comes full circle, using similar operatic vocals and towering violins from the opening track, this is Puzzle’s crescendo, a track that sounds unlike all the tracks before it, yet is without a doubt the work of Simon Neil and the twins, Ben and James Johnston.
‘Questions And Answers’ had been the first introduction I’d had to Scotland’s Biffy Clyro, and I’d admit is wasn’t the best, however if the ‘Infinity Land’ album had been a wake up call then ‘Puzzle’ has been a full on punch in the face, this is an album that is a showcase for what the band can do, managing to cross several different genres in one album and each one well executed. I’ve heard that people have accused the band have attempting to put themselves into the mainstream, but in this reviewers opinion the band if done nothing more learn from previous mistakes, taking more time over this record and concentrating more on hooks. The result has made this album more accessible and if that means more success that all the better for the band, it’s not without its down sides but still, brilliant.
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