Post-hardcore to rock-pop: the evolution of Biffy Clyro
As the band releases its 7th studio album, Adam Turner-Heffer delves into the musical DNA of the Scots alt rockers
In a recent interview, as a part of Noisey's Rank Your Records series, hugely successful, multi-platinum selling, Scottish rock-pop trio Biffy Clyro did an outrageous thing and believed in themselves. ‘Outrageous’ because it was considered the final in a long list of affronts from a band who have distanced themselves from the past and made a decision to follow success. They stopped being a confrontational, noisy post-hardcore band, got real, and became a capital ‘R’ rock band, selling bucketloads of records and filling stadiums. In this recent interview, they believe they truly have got better with every album.
But isn't saying you've got better with every album actually the most honest response a still-active artist can give? In fairness, most old-era Biffy fans have stopped paying attention anyway. After the monumental success of their major label debut (but fourth album overall) Puzzle – a record which is such a turning point it actually feels like two albums in one – one-half saying goodbye to their previous sound, the other introducing what was to come – many older fans were dismayed with the results. Some accused the band of being sell-outs, while others complained about their poppier sound and cleaner production (things that were going to become all the more apparent as the albums and years went on), but the agreement had been made: they're not ours anymore.
However, frontman Simon Neil chose to become a more conventional rock-pop writer because he did always have an ear for a barn-storming melody. In the aforementioned article, the band list the then-unreleased Ellipsis as their best album to date. They also mention how much pop music influenced them this time around, claiming that records like Kanye West's Yeezus broke more conventional rules than any rock music had in years, and it's hard to disagree with them. Hearing Ellipsis, it's easy to see where this influence has been felt. Biffy Clyro's latest is a straight-up pop album. It is a relatively light 39 minutes compared to the double album rock-opus Opposites which preceded it, and it traverses various pop and rock styles over the course of its 11 tracks in a way they used to do on their earlier, more challenging material.
While Ellipsis might not be to the taste of those who cling to early Biffy, it’s still an enjoyable listen. The important thing to remember about any new material Biffy Clyro put out is that with this, their seventh record and fourth on a major label, their run as a rock-pop act now supersedes their era as an angular, difficult, post-hardcore band. Thus, in a way, they have come full circle with their status as festival headliners, now trying to evolve yet again into a more pop-influenced act. While this might not appease their older fans, it's now the turn of their newer, much larger fan base to decide if this latest risk was worth it. One thing's for sure, it is commendable that a band of their status is still refusing to stagnate, regardless of the results or reception – though early reviews seem to be mostly positive – and given their upcoming show at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow (their biggest homecoming to date) there seem to be no signs of slowing down just yet.
Biffy Clyro play Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, on Sat 27 Aug.