Being consistent isn’t the most glamorous of accolades. It’s like being prompt. Or having neat handwriting. All very nice but they wouldn’t rank very highly on your tinder profile.
Instead, consistency is best left for a job interview, alongside ‘works well as part of a team and as an individual’ or ‘is a quick learner’. In short, consistency is functional. It’s never exciting. That is, unless you’re Biffy Clyro.
In the beginning there was nothing. Then some stuff happened. Then, in 1995, a 15-year-old Simon Neil got in contact with Ben Johnston and his twin brother James and formed Skrewfish. They switched one questionable name for another but that sense of teenage rebellion, anything-could-happen daydreaming and self-belief is still going strong twenty-one years later. Yup, twenty-one years. If Biffy Clyro was an actual person, they’d be having an existential crisis about what to do with their life as their other friends filled their Instagram feeds with careers, children and relationships. In the real world though, Biffy Clyro know exactly what they’re doing. Standing on the edge of ‘Ellipsis’, Simon, James and Ben have created something that’s as confident, wacky and bold as everything they’ve done before. But still different. It’s consistency, but not as you know it.
See, we all like bands to have ‘a journey’. We all like to support them on their way up and ridicule them on their way down. We like ordered lists and for new music to be better or worse than whatever came before. Biffy Clyro are outside those rules, looking in and laughing. Their debut single ‘Iname’ is brilliant. The B-sides, brilliant. Their debut EP ‘Thekidswhopoptodaywillrocktomorrow’ is as brilliant as the title. And not in a, ‘oh, look how much potential these kids have’ way but a ‘these songs are still brilliant, are still played live and are still adored’ way. ‘Don’t believe us? Try arguing with ‘Justboy’. Or ‘57’. Yeah, thought so.
It’s only when you take a step back, that you can see what an oddity Biffy Clyro really are. Few bands make it to seven albums. And the ones that do, come carrying at least one dud. It doesn’t matter where you look, no artist is reliably producing great music that isn’t a rehash of something better. Apart from Biffy Clyro. Weird and wonderful at the beginning, weird and wonderful today.
And as much as you’re told that the band released three cult albums of bizarre music before they learnt to write a chorus and were propelled to mainstream success, it simply isn’t true. ‘Questions & Answers’, ‘Joy.Discovery.Invention’ or ‘Wave Upon Wave Upon Wave’ would be at home on anything the band have released in the past ten years while ‘On A Bang’, ‘The Golden Rule’ and ‘The Joke’s On Us’ stand shoulder to shoulder with anything from their first decade. Biffy Clyro have literally never released a bad song. Pre-Puzzle, the band had already graced Reading Festival’s mainstage, sold out Koko and were doing Big Band stuff like playing the Royal Albert Hall for Teenage Cancer Trust. Sure, it’s not Wembley Arena but they were hardly a bunch of no-name chancers until ‘Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies’ shone a light on them. It’s always been there, burning brightly. It’s just intensified as time has gone on.
Debut album ‘Blackened Sky’ carries a sense of honesty amidst the thrashing desire to be heard, ‘The Vertigo of Bliss’ rages loudly as the band throw themselves further down the rabbit hole, only to end up at ‘Infinity Land’. Madcap, sprawling but with a heart of off-kilter pop gold, Biffy Clyro have never been able to escape their talent for a hook. ‘Puzzle’ saw the pieces come together for the outside world, but it was business as usual for Biffy who just leant more towards glitter than trauma, despite the subject matter. ‘Only Revolutions’ saw the band with heart on sleeve but their wide-eyed sense of adventure was never far from the surface. ‘Opposites’, ambitious and grandiose, shouldn’t have worked. Bands struggle to write twenty tracks as consistent and challenging across their whole careers, let alone on a double album that’s also their sixth. If there’s a well of ideas that Biffy Clyro are mining (/lowering a bucket into), it’s not running out soon. ‘Ellipsis’ is just that. A continuation. Glorious, consistent, explosive and new. This is the start of the band’s self-proclaimed third chapter in a story we don’t want to end.