Album Review – Biffy Clyro – Revolutions // Live at Wembley

Photo by NRK P3

The staggering mainstream success of Biffy Clyro in recent years is something of an enigma. In Biffy you have a band that came from having a very devoted, but also very small, following in Scotland, to a band which can comfortably fill the hallowed halls of Wembley Arena in only a few short years. For a long time, Biffy Clyro were the kind of band that only self professed “music experts” and the aforementioned folk of the Scottish underground rock scene followed. This changed with the 2007 release of ‘Puzzle’, a stunning album which blended the best aspects of their earlier, lo-fi stuff, the standard rock sensibilities of the Foo Fighters and some intriguing musical quirks. Make no mistake; it was a gorgeous album, one which would have been hard to follow by any band, especially one like Biffy, accustomed to a much smaller fan base as they were. The less-than-perfect, but somehow immensely engaging ‘Only Revolutions’ came next. It took ‘Puzzles’, softened a lot of the more jagged edges, amplified the soaring choruses and added a few more mature, heartfelt moments. Not every song was on target and it was a deviation from what old-time Biffy fans had come to love, but any album that spawned the likes of ‘Many Of Horror’ and ‘Mountains’ could be forgiven for any of its downfalls.

A monumental couple of years followed, no doubt the best moment of which was their headlining show at Wembley in December of last year. This live recording of that show contains all of the songs from ‘Only Revolutions’ and many of their best career-spanning hits. Recent chart tracks like ‘Saturday Superhouse’ and ‘Mountains’ showcase wonderful sing-along moments that I’m sure would have been breathtaking to behold for a band with such modest ambitions as Biffy. Indeed, the band themselves have noted on the accompanying DVD material that they felt moved by hearing the crowd shout the lyrics back with such gusto on such a big stage. To their credit the album is strong, the band sound terribly comfortable with their instruments, and a few songs really stand out as brilliant live choices, especially the early addition ‘Bubbles’, in which you can practically feel the cheeky smile beaming from Simon Neil’s face.

But the niggling thought behind all of this is whether or not this album was necessary. With a live show as revered as Biffy’s always is, it was probably a daunting task to try and capture the set in all its glory on CD. Furthermore, the album’s older gems occasionally sound a bit out of place amongst the set list of shinier, arena-sized hits. Something is just a bit unnerving about the older tracks on this album, but there’s no doubt that long-time fans will appreciate ‘Diary Of Always’ making the cut.

In the end, Biffy aren’t the same band anymore and they don’t belong to the same small crowd. Of course, this is a difficult pill to swallow for some, but that doesn’t mean they’re not still a great band.

This is a worthy addition to the growing collection of Biffy releases, and if you’re a recent addition to the fan base or were lucky enough to see the show, this will sit proudly in your collection. But there is little here for older fans; perhaps it’s time to leave shouting ”Mon the Biff’ to the masses.

Biffy Clyro
‘Revolutions // Live at Wembley’
27th June 2011
14th Floor Records