14th Floor / Roadrunner
ne of the hardest lessons for a growing boy to learn is that Kerrang! Magazine is functionally irrelevant, and its opinions don’t count for shit. This is particularly important to bear in mind when approaching Biffy Clyro, because that particular rag has jumped on Puzzle, the Scots’ new album, like Paris Hilton on dick. It’s been called a masterpiece. That’s debatable.
The band themselves have also been compared to Nirvana, which is even more so. Essentially the only real resemblance between Nirvana and “the Biffy” is this: there’s three of them, and singer Simon Neil looks like Kurt Cobain if he dyed his hair black, stopped listening to the Vaselines, and actually became them. (This is more of a compliment than you think: in our times, any evident influence from the hapless Seattle three-piece who unwittingly allowed the hell-dog spirits of Nickelback to assume earthly form is guilt by association.)
There are a number of bands Puzzle will bring to mind before the spectres of grunge. “Who’s Got a Match?” is a kissing cousin of the Hold Steady’s “Cattle and the Creeping Things” in its unremitting rhythmic tattoo, but while Craig Finn’s boys drop intricate rhymes on the Ybor City drug scene like sweeties from their pockets, the best Neil can muster is “I’m a fire and I burn, burn, burn, burn. I’m a fire, and I burn, burn, burn tonight.” Luckily, it works.
“A Whole Child Ago” could almost be Taking Back Sunday if, say, Adam Lazzara had fallen afoul of a serious throat infection that made him sound as though he’d come from Ayr and discovered the delight of a pre-Radio Two Idlewild. (It would probably be a good thing).
The most serious trangressions for fans hoping to remain KVLT occur on songs like “The Conversation Is…” and “Love Has a Diameter,” which come off like a galvanized Snow Patrol. Defend that and keep your indie cred. Not that Snow Patrol can’t be a guilty pleasure—everyone needs wuss music—but Biffy’s left-field reputation will certainly be taking a dent. It’s also somewhat surreal to hear “Now I’m Everyone,” in which the Kaiser Chiefs lock Biffy into a small room and wait for their sound to punch its way out.
There are still moments which are unmistakably the work of the snarky underground noisemongers beloved of their prior fanbase. The intro of “Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies” channels System Of A Down, before introducing a wholly unholy choir, swoony strings, and supercharged trains of riffola that frequently come close to derailing the whole thing. Then just to fuck with your head some more, it returns to its own intro.
“Saturday Superhouse” brings the rock, “Get Fucked Stud” brings the pain (in an unexpectedly crooned fashion), and “9/15ths” brings the utter delirious confusion. Imagine a battlefield full of stormtroopers marching in unison, chanting “We’re on a hell-slide, help us, help us, we’re on a hell-slide” over and over again. Now imagine they’ve taken off their helmets and they’re from the Firth of Clyde. I’ve made it sound a bit arty, but it will stick in your head like a memory of childhood abuse. Ironically for a band feted for gnarliness, Puzzle’s most successful moment is its simplest.
Reviewed by: Richard O’Brien
Reviewed on: 2007-07-06