Looking Back At…Opposites by Biffy Clyro

by oliver butler (@notoliverbutler)

Biffy Clyro are an enigma. For a band of such notoriety, they still seem like the outsider’s choice when it comes to music. Favouring the weird and wonderful when it comes to lyrics, song titles and of course, their A-Level maths equations of time signatures, nobody can say that they’re bland and by-the-numbers.

Since the turn of the decade, their star has continued to rise, with Only Revolutions beginning to put them on the map, ending 2017 as multi-festival headliners, with a sub-headline slot at Glastonbury, and many of you could easily argue that Sheeran should have been bumped in favour of the Biff.

However, the record that catapulted them to the headline scene is a bit of a weird one. The bearded Scottish rockers are known for writing thirty or forty choice cuts, packaging a select few into an album; if that wasn’t enough, there’s a b-side album to go along with, which obviously isn’t as good as the main event, but nothing to be sniffed at (See also: Little Soldiers from Lonely Revolutions). But for their sixth studio album, Opposites, Biffy went big time. Instead of a slim, lean studio album, the Kilmarnock trio released Opposites as a big, fat double album, five years ago today.

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, they also released a b-sides album called Similarities, because Simon Neil cannot physically say the word “holiday”.

Opposites should always be remembered as the album that brought Biffy to the very top. An arena tour was launched in early 2013 to promote the album, with the band headlining Reading & Leeds in that year as well. Whilst festival headliners are always a contentious issue, anyone who headlines the festival twice (as they did for the second time in 2016) must be doing something right.

However, whilst Opposites produced setlist mainstays, and some of the best Biffy Clyro tracks ever written, Opposites, like many double albums feels a bit bloated and unnecessary. Whilst we live in the age of playlists, single tracks & pick ‘n’ mix music, a double album is still a hefty thing to get through in one sitting, and with anything, the laws of diminishing returns soon apply, and you find yourself with fewer and fewer quality tracks, the longer the album goes on.

That being said, Different People is probably one of the best opening tracks of the modern era. The ethereal synth with heartbreaking lyrics bursting through into a high-tempo rock & roll express made it an absolute peach of an opener for their 2013 tour, with that absolutely fantastic light up tree, similar to the album cover. You wanna talk choice cuts from Opposites that ISN’T an opening track? How about everyone’s favourite set closer, Stingin’ Belle. The only thing wrong with that track is the lyric “You make me laugh, I’ll make you cry, I guess that rhymes”, which doesn’t rhyme at all, something Simon Neil has made light of during live sets, but even so, what a brilliant, confusing lyric.

Opposites also allowed for a more accessible Biffy sound, with tracks like Biblical and Opposite capturing that Clyro magic, but packaging it in a way that everyone can enjoy. But the same brand of aggressive, balls-to-the-wall sound was present in Sounds Like Balloons, and with all of the above, it’s hard not to see why they still cement their place in Biffy setlists, despite having seven albums of quality tunes, all of which get a sniff at the setlist.

However, the laws of diminishing returns did indeed apply, and whilst no slouches themselves, nobody will remember A Girl and His Cat and Woo Woo as well as they remember Spanish Radio. Double albums will never be good, it’s just the way it is. How they managed to do a double album AND a b-sides album is a total mystery and something that shouldn’t ever be explained. Had Opposites been slimmed down into a 10/12 track LP, it could have easily been the GOAT Biffy album, but the stragglers that found their way onto their album slow it down a bit.

But above all else, Opposites was THE album that will be remembered as the one that allowed Biffy to join the immortals. Ellipsis was a strong sequel to Opposites and continued their role as arena-filling, festival headlining, riffin’, griftin’ sons of guns.

And that folks, is why Opposites should have a very happy birthday.

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Oliver Butler

I'm sorry.

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