This album is Infinity Land by the mighty Scots that are Biffy Clyro, my personal outright favourite band of all-time. Now I'm sure some of you will question this decision, due in no small part to the appearance of Many of Horror on X Factor. Frankly, it was a poor cover of an already not great song and I don't really criticise them for doing it but whatever, this isn't the place for a debate on the merits of X Factor.
I ask you, dear reader, to cast aside any doubts you have after that "incident", or the fact that Mountains may have been played at every "rock & indie night" you've been to for the past 2 years, or anything else that may have tainted your view of this excellent band. Instead, we're going on a journey back in time to two albums before these shenanigans. Following the perfectly executed quiet-loud dynamics of Blackened Sky and the pseudo-prog genius of The Vertigo of Bliss (complete with its mildly disturbing cover of a lady masturbating), the unusually named 3-piece from Ayrshire released an album that manages to incorporate elements of both, but sounds like neither. An album that features, among other things, an intro that sounds almost like it's been stolen from a dance act, a xylophone, a piano, a trumpet and an a capella track, and is named after a concept from a book written by infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Lovely.
Trying to explain why these tracks are so incredible is pretty difficult for me. I could tell you how every member's vocals are perfect, the guitars are exactly right in the mix (and with just the right amount of distortion when needed) and the absolutely solid back-line from the two Johnston brothers shows the kind of synchronicity you can only get from actually being twins, but that doesn't do it justice. I could tell you how the music changes from fast to slow and quiet to loud without sounding jarring or missing a beat, or how Simon's lyrics seem to alternate rapidly between life-affirmingly beautiful and head-scratchingly weird but that still wouldn't quite cover it. This, to me, is the Biffy album where everything just fits. It's more accessible than The Vertigo of Bliss, but without the mainstream feel of Puzzle and Only Revolutions that alienated some of the band's long-term fans. Most notably, it's got that element of weirdness that those two albums seemed to lack somewhat. This is arguably best shown by the double-header of There's No Such Man As Crasp and There's No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake. The former is the aforementioned a capella track and serves as an extended intro for the latter; a swirling, convulsing beast of a song that changes tempo at the drop of a hat. It's ballsy, bonkers and absolutely brilliant. Elsewhere on the album, the magnificently titled Some Kind Of Wizard and The Kids From Kibble And The Fist Of Light provide more stop-start angular masterpieces. Wave Upon Wave Upon Wave handclaps its way joyfully through some of the darkest lyrics on the album to culminate in the wonderful repeated call of "do you believe in magic?". The slower The Atrocity and Got Wrong provide a welcome respite (and an insight into the developing songwriting skills of Simon Neil that would soon spawn massive hits Machines, Folding Stars and the previously mentioned Many Of Horror) following the quality opening trio of Glitter and Trauma, Strung To Your Ribcage and My Recovery Injection. It's also worth mentioning that the video for Glitter and Trauma is rather good. A tribute to the classic film One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, it's the perfect match to what is a schizophrenic, explosive song. Watch the video (unfortunately backed by the "radio edit" of the song, which lacks the extended dance-y intro) here, and appreciate:
Now, wasn't that good? The album finishes with the slow, drawn-out Pause It and Turn It Up before a period of silence and a good old "hidden track". Better known as Tradition Feed to fans of the band, it's a poem read by Simon about mother shortly after her death, backed by some loud (I think) bagpipes. It's poignant, and rounds off the album nicely.
If pressed to pick my favourite song on the album, I'd pick one of two depending on my mood at that time. Strung To Your Ribcage is a fairly short and fairly loud song that thrashes around for a little over 2 and a half minutes, beginning with screaming and ending with pretty singing. Yeah, a lot happens. On another day, it'd be Only One Word Comes To Mind. One of the more subdued songs on the album, it's quiet and beautiful and features one of the best cymbal noises I've ever heard (0:41). I love both for totally different reasons, and that's probably what makes them my favourites on the album.
I've barely scratched the surface in talking about the music itself, and even if I carried on for pages I doubt I could. The easiest way for you to get a proper grasp on the album and to decide whether you like it or not is to listen to it, which I hope you do. What I can talk about, however, is my own personal attachment to it. I bought it in 2007 for £7 from HMV after hearing Saturday Superhouse (from the then-unreleased Puzzle) on MTV2 and enjoying it a lot. It was the cheapest Biffy album HMV had and, since they didn't have the album with the song I'd heard on it, I bought it. I remember sitting in the car and leafing through the booklet, fascinated by the ridged paper it was printed on (I was, and still am, a complete simpleton). Upon arriving back at home, I put the album into my CD player and Tony Hawk's Project 8 into my Playstation 2 and played the two simultaneously for the next few hours. My relationship with the Tony Hawk series was longstanding, but my love affair with Biffy was only just beginning. I repeated this activity several times until Infinity Land was firmly lodged in my head, but that wasn't enough. In the months following I sought out the band's previous two albums, pre-ordered Puzzle and saw the band live for the first time. The addiction had begun.
It's been over 4 years since then and the effect that one album has had on me is huge. Biffy were a break from the metal that dominated my music collection at the time, and served as a gateway to a whole different kind of music. It was only a matter of time before they became my favourite band, a title they still hold. So many things that I listen to now can be traced back to association with Biffy, and I'm hugely thankful for that. Everything I listen to that could come under the Offbeat umbrella of "indie/alternative" is arguably down to Biffy, so I suppose my membership of Offbeat can be traced back to this album. This band has been a huge presence in my life for several years, and not only did this album start that but I think it's their best musically. I hope you listen to it, and I really hope you enjoy it.