Biffy Clyro: Blackened Sky

Jason MacNeil

Biffy Clyro

Blackened Sky

Label: Beggars Banquet
US Release Date: 2002-08-06
UK Release Date: 2002-03-11

Biffy Clyro started out as a teenaged group in the mid-'90s in a small village in Scotland. Influenced by Nirvana and Guns 'N Roses V.1.0, the duo of Simon Neil and Ben Johnston discovered what a distortion pedal should and shouldn't do. Some university years ensued with studies concentrating around their music more than books, resulting in more ink and more coverage in the indie music scene. After being discovered at the annual T in the Park in 2000, Biffy Clyro honed their sound to include a lot of independent favorites like Fugazi and Aerogramme. Now with its debut effort out and still in their youthful twenties, the group has made a debut album that starts off as a cross between the pop hues of XTC and the bland jock rock of Nickelback. Confused? Well, you should and shouldn't be.

The leadoff song, "Joy.Discovery.Invention" has a lovable harmony between each of the three members, all of who sing lead. There is no buildup to what transpires though, a loud and brooding "nu-metal" sound that is a bit over the top. Taking it down a notch or four for the bridge, the group sounds like they're onto something, but get lost in some sonic sludge. It's a good song generally, but the dichotomy is far wider than imagined. "27" has a nice and melodic chord progression in the vein of current U2 while Simon Neil gives a very good performance. Possessing a deliberate building style, the guitars don't sucker punch the listener and are far better off for it. Keeping the guitars in for the remainder of the track, the band hits all cylinders and resembles musicians far older than their youth.

"Justboy" has an infectious Incubus-like pop rock groove that gains steam. A bland chorus has the sing-a-long effect in spades, but isn't the payoff one might anticipate. It grows on you though for an excellent homestretch. Biffy Clyro often aren't shy to take chances, thus the uneven quality to the record shines on the inane and heavy opening on "Kill the Old, Torture Their Young". Resembling the latter day Manic Street Preachers in its reflective mood, the band returns to a pensive and lightweight pop rock format. But the drums are heavy enough to hint at what's to evolve (devolve?). Beach Boy vocals behind a harder rock sound rarely work, and here is no different. After the five-minute mark, the song veers off into an interesting instrumental section. "The Go-Slow" is perfectly polished emo-punk a la Jimmy Eat World, demonstrating the band's myriad of influences. Although it's void of the hook like "The Middle" or "Sweetness", there is enough in the chorus to put it over the bar. "Christopher's River" is the record's highpoint, a gorgeous mix of melody and brawn that isn't overkill. The harmonies also add a lot of texture to the tracks.

"Convex, Concave" is a murky Pearl Jam attempt that speaks of innocence before moving into an almost elementary school tempo and formula. The drumming comes to the fore but for all of the wrong reasons, too dominant at times while too small in others. The guitar 90 seconds in save it temporarily but it goes off on a weird musical tangent. It also sounds like a phone is ringing in the distance, so be forewarned it isn't your own. Too grandiose and prog-rock, therefore resulting in its downfall. "57" brings Remy Zero to mind as well as the Goo Goo Dolls. "Hero Management" is a soft pop tune with a "woe is me" structure, a touch of alternative guitar that the Cure personified decades ago. Again there are brief moments of genius, particularly the middle instrumental portion, a blend of punk and rock progressions.

The last quarter of the record is a mishmash of various influences that shows the best and worse of the band. "Solution Devices" is again Linkin Park "nu metal" despite the Biffy Clyro bio stating they aren't "nu metal". "Stress on the Sky" is tidier in its production, pieces of Primus and Incubus melded with some blood-curdling wails that do little for the number. Biffy Clyro offer a little bit of something for everyone, which is something few acts are capable of. What this means for future projects and a loyal fan base is hard to determine. Generally a credible first step despite some lapses in judgement.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.