ONLY REVOLUTIONS

18 December 2009

‘Only revolutions’ is the new album from Biffy Clyro. It came out in November, and it is excellent. The album is named after Mark Z. Danielewski’s weird road-trip novel. The trippy novel is about two US American kids who do not age (they are always 16), and it is constrained by being entirely in verse. Booooom Blast and Ruin is a quotation from this book.

I first heard of Biffy Clyro when they did a cover of Franz Ferdinand‘s “Take me Out” on BBC Radio years ago.  It’s a very odd name, and it stuck.  There are many stories about this daft name and where it came from, one version is that someone had a Cliff Richard fan pen, from there they would refer to pens as Cliffy Biros — until a drunken spoonerism turned up Biffy Clyro. I can believe that.

The guitarist, Simon Neil is from Ayr and the rhythm twins, Ben and Jimmy Johnson hail from Kilmarnock (Ben on drums and Jimmy on bass guitar).

This album is a landmark for them; they have changed labels and become head-liners in their own right. The album is quite lavish as a result.

  1. The Captain C major
    Angels fall to the floor
    Like they would if I was captain
    “Silver children,” She roared
    “I’m not the son of God”
    Somebody help me sing
    Can anybody hear me?
    Liars and lovers come back tonight
    We’re gonna make a scene
    Somebody help me sing wo o o
    Somebody help me sing wo o o
    Help me be captain of
    Our crippled disguises
    I won’t show what’s underneath
    It’s time for surprises
    I can’t climb up your ladder
    I can’t ride your horse
    I’ve swallowed half an hourglass
    So now the landscape is swollen up
    I gave birth to a fire
    It’s like it’s features where burning
    I’m in control, I am the son of God
    Somebody help me sing
    Can anybody hear me?
    Line up your soldiers one final time
    We’re gonna have a ball
    Somebody help me sing wo o o
    Somebody help me sing wo o o

    Help me be captain of
    Our crippled disguises
    I won’t show what’s underneath
    It’s time for surprises
    I can’t climb up your ladder
    I can’t ride your horse
    I’ve swallowed half an hourglass
    So now the landscape is swollen up
    Let’s throw death away

  2. That Golden Rule Eb major
    Son of Henry, I’m the first in line
    To the throne, smell my mustard gas
    I slash swords through your wooden spine
    Well it cut my heart and it blew my head
    We made love at the side of the road
    Reflex, you better know this flows fast
    This river is particularly sinister
    Close your eyes and take my hand
    I wanna scream one last death medley
    I am looking for a reason to secure a forward motion

    Love that golden rule, that golden rule
    Need that golden rule, that golden rule
    Secrets are the truth, they are the truth
    We need that silver rule, that silver rule

    Face to face with the ball and chain
    I’ll poke my head up till it’s red
    I tell my secrets and you took my pain
    About a broken heart and I will do it again
    Son of Henry, I’m the first in line
    To the throne, smell my mustard gas
    I slash swords through your wooden spine
    Well it cut my heart and it blew my head
    I want to scream one last death medley
    I am looking for a reason to secure a forward motion

    Love that golden rule, that golden rule
    Need that golden rule, that golden rule
    Secrets are the truth, they are the truth
    We need that silver rule, that silver rule

  3. Bubbles Eb major
    Well how’s your view of things today?
    Or Have they begun to fade away
    The sinners sin but aren’t aware
    Our fables take us everywhere
    I can’t keep up with you
    I can’t keep up I can’t compete with history
    We’ll feel alive but?
    The misery must stay inside
    Look at our homes, look at our lives
    In control of the morning
    In control of the sea

    You are creating all the bubbles at night
    I’m chasing round trying to pop them all the time
    We don’t need to trust a single word they say
    You are creating all the bubbles at play

    There’s a girl, there’s a girl, there’s a girl, there’s a girl
    She’s down by the river
    In her own creepy world there’s a girl, there’s a girl
    And she’s down by the river
    It’s time to consider
    That baby is a sinner
    She’ll wash away your sins (Wash away your sins)
    She’ll wash away your sins (Wash away your sins)
    She’ll wash away your sins and go home

    I only once upset my kin
    Accused him of a moral slip
    Well he came back and claimed the change
    I know his life’s the same again
    I can’t ask him again
    I should let it go

    You are creating all the bubbles at night
    I’m chasing round trying to pop them all the time
    We don’t need to trust a single word they say
    You are creating all the bubbles at play

    There’s a girl, there’s a girl, there’s a girl, there’s a girl
    She’s down by the river
    In her own creepy world there’s a girl, there’s a girl
    She’s down by the river
    It’s time to consider
    That baby is a sinner
    There’s a girl, there’s a girl, there’s a girl, there’s a girl
    (Wash away your sins, wash away your sins)
    She’s down by the river.

  4. God and Satan G major
    I talk to God as much
    As I talk to Satan
    ‘Cause I wanna hear both sides
    Does that make me cynical,
    There are no miracles and
    This is no miraculous life

    I savour hate as much as I crave love
    Because I’m just a twisted guy
    Is this the pinnacle,
    Is this the pinnacle
    The pinnacle of being alive?
    Now I see the light

    Well I look up to God
    But I see trouble
    ‘Cause this ain’t a miracle
    I just want to take my chance
    To live through a miracle
    I know for certain that someone
    Is watching but is it from up or down?
    I make you miserable you stick with me
    Although you know I’m gonna
    Ruin your life
    We walk into the tide
    Well I look up to God
    But I see trouble
    ‘Cause this ain’t a miracle
    I just want to take my chance
    To live through a miracle

    When the see-saw snaps and splinters your hand
    Don’t come crying to me
    I’ll only see your good side
    And believe it’s a miracle, a miracle

    I slap the water and watch the fish dance
    To the ripples of us
    We’re just dull blue duds
    Blinking eyes encased in rust
    This ain’t a miracle
    This ain’t a miracle
    This ain’t a miracle
    This ain’t a miracle

  5. Born on a Horse B major
    I pronounce it aluminium,
    ‘Cause there’s an I next to the U and M
    Now write it down slowly and read it out fast
    She’s got eyes, preposterous eyes
    I’ve never had a lover who’s my sister or my brother before
    I’ve been counting on the wrong things
    To make life feel alright
    You could be my acid queen
    Until the end of time
    ‘Cause you can have it all
    You’re stuck in the middle
    Raise them one and all
    I was born on a horse that’s all
    I like to think I’m just a thoroughbred
    In all but name and with no horses flesh
    We’re galloping slowly through this broken glass
    She’s got hooves, preposterous hooves
    I’ve never had a lover who’s my sister or my brother before
    I’ve been counting on the wrong things
    To make life feel alright
    You could be my acid queen
    Until the end of time
    ‘Cause you can have it all
    You’re stuck in the middle
    Raise them one and all
    I was born on a horse that’s all
    ‘Cause you can have it all
    You’re stuck in the middle
    Raise them one and all
    I was born on a horse that’s all
  6. Mountains Db major
    Took a bite out of a mountain range,
    Thought my teeth would break the mountain did.
    Lets go, I want to go all the way to the horizon.
    I took a drink out of the ocean and,
    I’m treading water there before I drown.
    Let’s dive, I want to dive to the bottom of the ocean.
    I took a ride, I took a ride, I wouldn’t go there without you.
    Let’s take a ride, we’ll take a ride.
    I wouldn’t leave here without you.
    I am a mountain, I am the sea,
    you can’t take that away from me.
    I am a mountain, I am the sea,
    you can’t take that away from me.
    ‘Cause you tear us apart, with all the things you don’t like.
    You can’t understand that I won’t leave ’til we’re finished here, and we’ll find out where it all went wrong.
    I wrote a note to the jungle and
    it wrote me back that I was never crowned
    king of the jungle, so
    there’s and end to my horizon.
    I took a ride, I took a ride.
    I wouldn’t go there without you.
    Lets take a ride, we’ll take a ride.
    I wouldn’t leave here without you.I am a mountain, I am the sea, you can’t take that away from me.
    I am a mountain, I am the sea.

    ‘Cause you tear us apart, with all the things you don’t like.
    You can’t understand that I won’t leave ’till we’re finished here, and then find out where it all went wrong.

    Nothing lasts forever, except you and me.
    (You are my mountain, you are my sea)
    Love will last forever, between you and me.
    (You are my mountain, you are my sea)

    I am a mountain, I am the sea,
    you can’t take that away from me.
    I am a mountain, I am the sea.
    I am a mountain, I am the sea.

  7. Shock Shock A major
    Well you scratch and you scratch ’till your face comes away
    Replaced by a hole a vortex just waiting to play
    I commend your violence
    Well I enter a cave with my wrists sticking out
    The soles of my feet worn down to a dusty mess
    I’ll stay numb to these accidents
    Well you talk and you talk like you trying to shock me
    I don’t even know what the fuck we’re still arguing about
    Maintain my silence
    You’re a shame to your dad ’cause you’re killing his days
    Irresponsible life you’ve only yourself to blame
    Maintain your friendliness
    Well you talk and you talk like you trying to shock me
    I don’t even know what the fuck we’re still arguing about
    Maintain my silence
    You’re wondering why you’re exhausted, exhausted from using these lies
    I’m sure you’ll regress again
    Maintain your silence

    I’ve been crippled by shock, shocked again
    I’ll continue to douse your violence
    With kisses of hate and silence
    I’ve been crippled by shock (shock, shock, shock, shock, shock)

  8. Many of Horror Db major
    You say “I love you, boy”
    But I know you lie
    I trust you all the same
    I don’t know why
    ‘Cos when my back is turned
    My bruises shine
    Our broken fairytale
    So hard to hide
    I still believe
    It’s you and me till the end of time
    When we collide we come together
    If we don’t we’ll always be apart
    I’ll take a bruise, I know you’re worth it
    When you hit me, hit me hard
    Sitting in a wishing hole
    Hoping it stays right
    Feet cast in solid stone
    I got Gilligan’s eyes

    I still believe
    It’s you and me till the end of time

    When we collide we come together
    If we don’t we’ll always be apart
    I’ll take a bruise, I know you’re worth it
    When you hit me, hit me hard

    ‘Cos you said our love
    Is letting us go,
    Guess what
    Our future is for
    Many of horror
    Our future’s for
    Many of horror

    I still believe
    It’s you and me till the end of time

    When we collide we come together
    If we don’t we’ll always be apart
    I’ll take a bruise, I know you’re worth it
    When you hit me, hit me hard.

  9. Booooom Blast and Ruin Db major
    Had enough
    You burn the bridge I’ll cut the boat in half
    Control
    Said enough, you keep the secrets and all you’ll never spill
    So Boom, blast and ruin girl
    Causes distraction
    You’re rooted in hell
    I can’t surprise you girl
    The truth is in motion
    You cover it well
    But you’re praying for some action so you won’t realise
    You used to realise it used to be alright
    I flick the switch
    I wake up in a corpse of sweat and tears
    Soaked
    I swallow truths
    We fit like ice cream on an open wound
    It soothes
    Sink like cathedrals girl
    Into the ocean
    We rise to the sun
    I can’t surprise you girl
    The truth is in motion
    You cover it well
    But you’re praying for some action so you won’t realise
    You used to realise, realise

    Boom, blast and ruin girl
    Causes distraction
    You’re rooted in hell

    I can’t surprise you girl
    The truth is in motion
    You cover it well
    But you’re praying for some action so you won’t realise
    You used to realise I used to be right.

  10. Cloud of Stink B Major
    Dance if you wanna dance, if you wanna sweat
    Sweat if you wanna smell, go do it alone
    Fuck if you wanna fuck, if you wanna cum
    Sleep if you wanna sleep, talk more in the morn’
    Look up to the sky, is it still good to feel alive?
    Well I can dance on top of a hurricane
    This combination will make it’s way right
    Congratulations on marrying this clown
    Swing if you wanna swing, hanging on a rope
    Rope if you wanna burn, do it on your own
    Cry if you wanna cry, acknowledge your heart
    Wish if you wanna wish, the only way is up
    Blame it on the world, visit them one and all
    You have to comprehend what your heart says
    This combination will make it’s way right
    Congratulations on marrying this clown

    There’s a black mould on my frazzled lungs, it whistles
    My throat is gone, I’m still holding on but I don’t have long
    No I don’t have long

    As it goes on and on and on and on
    And on and on and on and on
    It whistles (Let go)

    As it goes on and on and on and on
    And on and on and on and on
    It whistles (Let go)

    Dance if you wanna dance, if you wanna sweat
    Sweat if you wanna smell, go do it alone
    Fuck if you wanna fuck, if you wanna come
    Sleep if you wanna sleep, talk more in the morn’.

  11. Know Your Quarry B Major
    When I was young, I first encountered my crippled lungs;
    I felt them burn, and cursed them ever since.
    I was turning blue, in a match right in front of you,
    And I slithered to the floor, hope I score some more.
    I won’t go where the sun doesn’t shine
    Go crazy in the evening if we sail up right
    Love is a shadow, in the brightness it dies;
    Because tonight,
    We raise the sun, and we shine it over everyone.
    And if we won a crash oh hush
    Our lips should kiss each other so;
    I just want to feel your body,
    I want you to know your quarry.
    You can see the world looking down from a different universe,
    Can we save every single one of them, the only half I’ve hands
    My father cradled us; we’re bright blue and we’re covered in blood,
    We staggered through the door, trouble’s taken score.
    I won’t go where the sun doesn’t shine
    Go crazy in the evening if we sail up right
    Love is a shadow, in the brightness it dies;
    Because tonight,
    We raise the sun, and we shine it over everyone.
    And if we won a crash oh hush
    Our lips should kiss each other so;
    I just want to feel your body,
    I want you to know your quarry.

    I just want to, feel your body; I want you to, know your quarry.
    I just want to, feel your body; I want you to, know your quarry.

  12. Whorses Db Major.
    Who’s a hippy now?
    I cut it off to make you proud,
    Abuse my limbs until the sun goes down
    I don’t want to be alone again.
    Got Jesus’s Autograph,
    No handshake or pat on the ass
    His saving grace was talking fast
    I don’t want to be born again
    Am I ready to take that chance,
    Put my faith in someone else?
    Let’s use this dynamite,
    We’re only making noises
    I’ll make the brightness yours
    So we can deny who we are,
    I Love you but not today
    The darkness felt like a shout.
    Am I ready to take that chance,
    Put my faith in someone else?
    Together we stand,
    We’re at the bottom of the cove
    It looked like rain but, it felt like snow
    Because wherever we stand, we’re at the bottom of the hole,
    We’ll dig our way out, but we’ll still say no.
    The wound is king and how,
    His whorses turn they make him proud
    His vision’s clipped like wings and crowns
    Lets use this photograph
    He’s never even had the chance to believe in something else.
    Let’s use this dynamite, we’re only making noises
    We want to affect a change with voice and electrical noises

    Together we stand,
    We’re at the bottom of the cove
    It looked like rain but, it felt like snow
    Because wherever we stand, we’re at the bottom of the hole,
    We’ll dig our way out, but we’ll still say no

    Darkness fell like a shout;
    The darkness fell like a shout;
    Darkness fell like the shout;

    We want to affect a change, with voice and electrical noises

    Wherever we crash, we’re gonna blame it on the old
    Unique to the touch, and crippled to the bone
    However we stand they’ll be swinging from the ropes
    Unfinished and young or unhappy and old.

As you can see, the lyrics are pretty cryptic – this could be the influence of the novel or in the great pop tradition of not meant to make sense (be-bop-a-loo-la).

I wouldn’t take these keys as Gospel; for example, I changed the pitch of Bubbles from Eb major to E major — a semitone or one fret up.  This turned all the chords, bass-lines and lead work into something simpler, more logical and far easier.

They remind me of loads of bands — God and Satan is very like Del Amitri at the beginning.  They can evoke Houses of the Holies at times, other times it’s Stereophonics, cheesy Beatles or something heavier, like, say, Iron Maiden. They sing in a weird accent — Ayrshire is close to Glaswegian, but they roll their ‘r’s’ like a yank at times, but I suppose that is what makes them different from The Proclaimers! Simon’s vocals have grown, and this album illustrates that he has arrived as a great lead vocalist in his own right.

What Biffy do is not tricky or difficult musically, but it is still clever and interesting.  they play around with rhythms and syncopation, mess around with time signatures, change keys and more besides.  The result is rich and interesting.

They all sing and this album has orchestrated bits and pieces, including pizzicato strings, horns and the like, so it is a “Big” feeling, a value-for-money thing, an album that doesn’t scrimp and save.  Every track builds to a crescendo which is a la mode. This, their 5th album has bigness about it,  it is a head-liner album.  There is not one bad track on it. Mon The Biff!

Get it, what’s not to like?

[2010-03-01 Edit: On 2010-03-24, The Captain won an NME Award for Best Video, here it is:

[Embedded video clip from YouTube.com]

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