Sunday, April 14, 2013

In response to ...

Simon & Ben
This blog post is a response to the post "Biffy Clyro – Killing the old, pleasing the new…" by Fred Stonehouse. This marks a first – in all the years I write this blog I never replied this way to somebody else’s blog, but when I read this one I felt this itch in my fingertips that tells me work needs to be done.
Please note that this is not meant to be a fight or even a discussion. Music is love. Sometimes you grow together and sometimes you grow apart. Also just like you cannot convince somebody to love you, you cannot convince somebody to love a record and I'm not trying to do so - I just want to add another perspective. To better understand my point of view you can just head over here, where I wrote a bit about my personal background when it comes to music. You will see that I might be new to the Biffy but absolutely not new to this type of music. In fact it’s over 20 years and counting. 

So let’s go: 
Usually I ignore most critical tweets and posts about Biffy Clyro, because too often they are just like "They play big venues now and that means they are not cool anymore." Statements like this have nothing to do with the music and are not worth a 2nd look. And when I read stuff like that they are not able to pull off their headliner jobs at Reading & Leeds, I just smile and let Mother Nature aka the band do its thing this summer. I am zero worried. This blog post though was kind of thought provoking, although (or because) I not agree with a lot in there.

You know, usually I am person that tries to live in the
here and now as much as possible. You can’t change the past and the future is always different from what you thought it would be. Life also taught me that everything happens for a reason and that karma has the smartest timing – smarter than I could ever plan. Nevertheless I gave myself a hard time lately about the fact that I missed a decade of Biffy Clyro releasing records and playing tiny clubs in my hood, while I was busy doing other things
Ironically Fred’s blog post about his view as an "old" fan from the beginning and his struggle with "Opposites" made me feel a lot happier with my situation, because I realized that I have the advantage of a different perspective. 


The Biffy stack
I am looking at things from a bird’s eye view, so to speak. All songs are new in the same way for me since I joined practically with the release day of "Opposites" and just stocked up on the complete back catalogue in one quick move and right away went to my first show.  
Fred writes: "If one were to listen to their first album "Blackened Sky" and then immediately after listen to "Opposites" it would be difficult to connect the musical dots." 
See – for me it is the other way around. One of the things that amazed me most when I jumped into the Biffy world and went to the show is that from "Just Boy" to "Skylight" it feels like one piece. Of course there is an evolution, of course there are significant differences (and that is a good thing), but there is a red line and a strong musical identity – one of the strongest I ever had the chance to witness.
What I would agree on though is that the "musical dots" are significantly easier to connect when you look at a live set. Brand new songs like "Black Chandelier" or "Stingin' Belle", to name just two, get closer to the old ones without all the playful extras of an extensive studio production. But also, from the other side, "Just Boy" live in 2013 – with the band having added ten years of 
gaining skills, experience and confidence - is a bigger song than it ever was.

But to be fair Fred talked about studio albums and not the live shows. So let’s go back to the records. I won’t comment much on the album per album run down given. I have quite similar favorite songs though. I also really like "The Vertigo Bliss" and I am a huge fan of "Glitter & Trauma".  It is my crisis intervention song. When I get really angry and feel like punching kittens the song and especially the epic 100 seconds intro from "Revolutions // Live at Wembley" helps much better than any Bach flower emergency drops. 

But what makes me always cringe is the idea – and I read this in even more drastic manner at other places before – of an intentional move to a more commercial approach with "Puzzles" (which is btw is much more a slow grower for me than "Blackened Sky") to "please" selected target groups in the sense of letting the creative work follow a marketing plan. I mean, how is that supposed to look like in the case of this band? Do we really picture Simon, Ben and James hanging out at the rehearsal space and say stuff like: "Hey Si, what about writing some hits? Let’s say something about your mom that makes the front row girls cry? We could buy new cars with the money we make with that." Ahem – I guess not. 


I wasn’t there, I never talked to anyone in the band and so I can just talk about what I hear when I listen to the music. And yes, I of course hear the deep cut between "The Vertigo of Bliss" and "Puzzle" too, but I think it was necessary. All three first records are great but that approach had run its course after the third. It was important to stop and redirect to avoid stagnation. It is normal that change like that means for some people that the band left their personal taste spectrum, but for everybody who manages to stay this is when the journey gets exciting. For me personally "Puzzle" sounds a lot more like making some steps left and right of the known path to figure out where to go next than about getting more commercial.


"Only Revolutions" then is the logical next step – new but steady grounds under the feet it just bursts of confidence and is about knowing who you are and what you are capable of.  And when you look in hindsight how well it worked out it looks easy, but it needs a lot of guts to say "This song is HUGE, let’s make it HUGE." That’s means to take some serious risk because when it goes wrong you lose big time.



James & Mike
"Opposites" then is when Fred and I obviously bought different records. He says: "Frustratingly if the band had chosen to only do one disk and put the best tracks from each onto it we’d be talking about a relatively decent album. However, it’s not and it’s a long way from anything fans of old are used to. We enjoyed the other albums because the choruses were great, the bridges and verses unpredictable and the rhythm and speed were exciting. This feels disjointed and at times, characterless."

Really - everybody feels about a record in a different way and when this is what he gets out if then this is it for him, but: o_O ... What?
Just pull everything in that quote upside down and make it the opposite (pun unavoidable) and you have the record I bought packed with great choruses, crazy developments inside songs, speed and rhythm changes and everything else you could wish for. (Pro tip: Ben’s performance alone is mind blowing. Do yourself a favor and give the whole thing a run over headphones and focus on the drums. AMAZEBALLS!) 

Simon said in an interview that they don’t know how people listen to "Opposites" - if they would take the two records separately or skipping around or whatever.  I can of course just speak for myself:  I listen to it in one go. No break between "the sand ...
" and "the land ...", but being aware where the break is. No skip, no shuffle. I just love it as it is and take it as one big journey.
Of course every record has songs I like more and I like less and this is no exception. My "BFF" on "Opposites" is clearly "Little Hospitals" for very personal lyric related reasons and because I totally adore the kazoo craziness. A lot of the other songs move up and down the favorites list depending on my mood, but  "Stingin' Belle", "Opposite", "Biblical", "Victory Over The Sun", "The Thaw", "Black Chandelier", "Modern Magic Formula", "Sounds Like Balloons" and "Skylight" are definitely highlights.  The church organ in "Different People" gives me chills (favorite part of the "Making of" DVD) and I have a crush on "Pocket". Probably it is the old school rock and guitar player fan in me that sees a lot of open grounds to conquer in the future behind that little tune.  

I could go on for a while longer and talk for example about how awesome the songs of "Opposites" sound in every possible version:  from the really fancy studio production to the kick ass live versions down to the three people only acoustic sets – a clear indicator for amazing songwriting and proof to the fact that we talk here about a bunch of incredibly talented and skilled musicians.  

I might also throw in that if you can afford to release an amazing song like "Fingerhut" or a beauty like "The Rain" only as b-sides you are in a very happy place as a band. 

We’ll see where it goes from here because "Opposites" is clearly the end point of another Biffy era and I'm more than excited to see where they go from here. I’ll be aboard and no "Thundermonster" (my other "BFF" song & b-side from the "Black Chandelier" EP) will be able to whip me off. 


See you at "Rock im Pott" and hopefully a couple of more shows over the next months!


MON THE BIFF!

PS: The pictures enlarge when you click on them. They are my own and shot at the E-Werk in Cologne. Please contact me before considering to reuse and publish them. 

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