Like the first track on the album, whose intensifying intro builds anticipation for a disappointingly average track, Ellipsis is somewhat of an anti-climax. The interviews, teasers and discussion leading up to the new record promised something bold and exciting, and Ellipsisjust hasn’t delivered. Similarly, the energetic build-up and intro riff on ‘Wolves’ only makes it more disappointing when the song dwindles into bland melodies and predictable progression. Simon’s vocals and lyrics, not only on ‘Wolves’, but through much of the album, fall short of his usual wacky genius. The riff at around 3.13 is awesome – it’s just a shame that the song then returns again to the boring title chant to finish. The entire album hovers around this region of ‘OK’, with some parts rising above and others sinking below. Overall, Ellipsis falls far short of the passion, imagination and variation expected from a Biffy Clyro record.
Friends and Enemies, Animal Style, Herex and Flammable are all pretty forgettable – though not awful tracks by any means, each falls into the category of that predictable, catchy chart rock that sounds a lot like about 50 other tunes. On first listen, ‘Re-arrange’ could easily be dismissed as a similarly unoriginal pop-rock love ballad, yet there is a sincerity to it that somewhat cuts through its thick gloss. It also makes for undeniably smooth listening, perfect for a summer afternoon drive. ‘Medicine’ is another pleasant but unexceptional track. The bridge, with its soft vocals, darting synth and rising strings, provides a pretty and much needed detour from an otherwise predictable song progression.
Thankfully, the album does perk up near the end, with the exception of ‘People’ – a boring, clichéd acoustic. ‘Small Wishes’ is a fun, quirky track which nicely juxta-poses a jaunty country music style with sharp, challenging lyrics concerning Scottish independence. ‘Howl’, ‘Don’t, Won’t, Can’t’ and ‘In the Name of the Wee Man’, however, are the real saviours of the album. ‘Howl’ yanks you to your feet with its upbeat, melodic energy. Simon’s vocals suddenly regain their presence, swooping through sunny melodies that complement the song’s cheerful chord changes and peppy drums. When the disappointing ‘People’ threatens to kill interest again, ‘Don’t, Won’t Can’t’ strikes right back with an energetic reggae beat, punchy vocals and engaging, cryptic lyrics. The song ends with a wonderfully distinctive Biffy breakdown, leaving the listener longing for a head-bang. This wish is granted immediately by ‘In the Name of the Wee Man’, which sees a return of the aggressive, ragged guitar and famous vocal screeches that dominate Biffy’s earlier, heavier records.
Give Ellipsis a few listens. Accept that it’s not Biffy at their best and allow yourself to find the gems hidden amongst the filler – after a few plays, parts do start to shine out. That being said, you really shouldn’t have to work that hard to find something great in a Biffy record. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an awful album. For another rock band, it may well be a particularly good album – but not for Biffy. They say we are the harshest judgers of those we expect the most from, and it proves true in this case. I am loath to speak ill of one of my favourite bands, but I know that Biffy Clyro are capable of more than this album offers.
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