A likeable collection, showcasing a natural evolution, but hardly essential listening.
Chris Beanland 2009
For the past year, Biffy Clyro have been playing gigs all around the world. You can almost imagine hirsute frontman Simon Neil handing out business cards to people he meets at airports: ‘No Show Too Small’. Of course, this is just a sign of the way the modern music industry works: gigs can rake in the cash for bands, while record sales often don't.
These days you need to shift some serious units to reap financial rewards from actually putting an album onto store shelves. But despite this fact, the industry equivalent of walking through a tunnel and seeing the lights of a train thundering towards you, bands are still doing what they've always done. Things may change in the future, but for now old habits die hard.
So here we have Biffy Clyro’s fifth album: not much of a departure from what came immediately before it, 2007’s major label debut Puzzle. And here's another thing about the modern music industry: with an established band like Biffy, who have a hardcore of fans around the world, exactly what critics have to say about their wares matters not a jot. However this review reads, and whatever its conclusions, people will buy into their enjoyable-enough angst rock anyway. They’ve reached that level of success, where fans will, effectively, buy blind.
While it is a fair comment that there's not much progression from their last album evident on Only Revolutions, there are pronounced developments from what the Scottish trio were delivering in their Beggars Banquet days, when they were very much the thinking man's visceral rock band. On 2002's Blackened Sky, the band’s debut, there were some genuinely heart-wrenching rock moments; now it's all rather polished, and it’s been this way for quite some time.
But at least they’ve never gone folk, in the vein of those other great Scot-rock hopes, Idlewild. And there are some satisfyingly coruscating moments here, most notably Shock Shock and Bubbles. There are some chart-bothering, Muse-lite moments too, such as the pomp-drenched sing-along single The Captain. Essentially, this is an entirely natural evolution for Biffy: the quirks remain, but the hooks have been sharpened and the gloss grows ever thicker.
They’re likeable as ever then, albeit for reasons fairly removed from their first rumblings. But Only Revolutions isn't quite an essential album of 2009, however great a draw the band has become in the live field.