New Music, Please? – Biffy Clyro & Papa Vs. Pretty

Righto then – Uni is finished, holidays are here and new music shall be written about! This week we begin the usual format of the column: One signed band and one unsigned band.

Remember, if you are an unsigned band or aware of an unsigned band and want their CD to get reviewed, email the band contact details to: [email protected]

Signed Band Of The Week

Biffy Clyro – Only Revolutions

Biffy Clyro are a band on the cusp of ultimate success. After their fantastic 2007 effort Puzzle they toured extensively, opening for stadium acts such as Muse, The Who, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Rolling Stones. It seems their foray into the stadium-rock arena has rubbed off on their song-writing, as it is painstakingly obvious that their ambition with this album is to make the leap into the category of the aforementioned world-wide rock powerhouses.

If such an occurrence comes to fruition it will be on the back of more relentless touring and smart management – not on the back of Only Revolutions, their latest album. While a strong performance, it isn’t the instant-classic album that would put them on the front of everybody’s mind. Hell, it isn’t even their best album (see the aforementioned Puzzle).

Beginning with The Captain, very much an archetypal Biffy Clyro song, the album moves through to their first single The Golden Rule. While upbeat and energetic, it is devastatingly let down by an incredibly draining and boring chorus. It’s a massive weight that drags the energy of the song way down. Fortunately, the album is home to Bubbles, a collaboration with Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme and one of Biffy’s best efforts yet, and other impressive feats such as the delicate God & Satan, Shock Shock, Booooom Blast & Ruin, the brilliant and joyfully heavy Cloud Of Stink, and Whorses, a great track that is home to numerous time feel changes and thumping drums.

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However, it seems Biffy simply tried too hard to appeal to a wider audience, with the inclusion of Born On A Horse, a ridiculous dance-esque piece that only becomes listenable during the grandiose ending – It just sounds like a worse version of A Whole Child Ago off Puzzles. Moreover, Many Of Horror is a hollow stadium-rock piece that only sounds good because of production, rather than it actually being a good piece of music, while Know your Quarry is equally as forgettable.

Curiously, the fantastic 2008 release Mountains makes an appearance on the album. While beneficial as it is a great song, it could be seen as an attempt to ensure new fans are comfortable with buying the new album, as it gives them a known track that they can focus their listening around. However, it seems a slightly desperate attempt to attract more fans; why not leave Mountains as a stand-alone great release and put a new track on the album in its place?

Only Revolutions is a good album, it’s just not great. It’s home to some of Biffy’s best work (listen to Bubbles, I can’t stress that enough) but also some of their most uninspiring. Regardless, it seems its purpose is to catapult them into the role of headline act, but its subservience to 2007’s Puzzle would predicate that that won’t happen. Don’t be surprised if it does though.

Unsigned Band Of The Week

Papa Vs Pretty

There are so many bands going around Sydney these days that if you’re looking for new, fresh music it’s nigh-on impossible to scour your way through it all. Fortunately, my latest foray into the Sydney indie scene has seen me introduced to up-and-comers Papa Vs. Pretty.

Consisting of 18 year old guitarist, keyboardist and singer Tom Rawle, 19 year old bassist Gus Gardiner and 18 year old drummer Tom Myers, Papa Vs Pretty are not only a band you should look out for in the future, but one you should look out for today. Their undeniable talents have seen them play sets at the 2009 Laneway festival, the 2008 Peats Ridge Festival and the 2008 Parklife festival.

They recently released their self-titled second EP and it is a Stirling performance for such a young band. The album begins with the explosive ensemble-opening of Ballad which moves through to a catchy verse dominated by Rawle’s impressive vocals. The catchy chorus, coupled with a bridge and guitar solo that reminds me oh-so-much of early Muse will leave you immediately captivated by not only Rawle’s obvious song-writing talent, but the band’s fluency as a unit.

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The next song, Sleep (Again) is sure to leave any fans of Coldplay or such bands utterly satisfied, as the mixture of Myers’ consistent drumming with Rawle’s soft keys and high-pitched rapidly strummed guitar sets the mood for a piece of music that is capable of filling any stadium. It’s is no wonder then that their live show has been given rave reviews. However, whilst there are undeniable similarities to Coldplay, PVP demonstrate a level of innate sophistication through Rawle’s delicate change-of-pace piano solo and their subtle tutti-hits in the choruses.

Moving through to Citizen #1, PVP takes catchiness to a new level with their soaring guitar chords and sing-a-long vocal lines. Sure to be a crowd pleaser, Citizen #1 is the stand-out ‘pop song’ on the EP but once again demonstrates Papa Vs. Pretty’s unique approach to songwriting through an ending which enters from left-field. The contrasting heavily layered soaring vocals of “Don’t fuck with us” over the delicate piano creates a humorous mixture that is sure to get the crowd singing along.

The EP finishes with an emotive acoustic piece named Shoot which incorporates bassist Gus Gardiner on the cello, further demonstrating the fact that this band is well beyond their years and capable of music few others their age can do.

For me though, the best moment on the EP is undoubtedly the oblique Arrestem. When I first listened to this album I must admit I really didn’t like this song. However, after a few listens I began to appreciate this song for what it is – brilliant and unique song writing. The longest track on the album, it opens with a mixture of Rawle’s raw vocals and samples that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Nine Inch Nails album.

As the song progresses, it continues this original idea and varies it subtly with altered orchestration. Half-way through the piece though, the song changes dramatically as a new melody is introduced and the time-feel changes allowing the song to take a turn towards an almost R.E.M.-like feel. Whilst this song may not be the most catchy, nor the crowd pleaser of the former three songs, it demonstrates a song-writing ability that is just so impressive, and it shows that this band is willing to go to places most school-boy bands would not dream of.

Papa Vs Pretty are about to embark on a national tour in support of Howling Bells. The dates are:

Thursday 3rd December

Barwon Club, Geelong

Friday 4th December

Corner Hotel, Melbourne

Saturday 5th December

Esplanade Hotel, Melbourne (w/o Howling Bells)

Friday 11th December

The Zoo, Brisbane

Saturday 12th December

Neverland Bar, Gold Coast

Sunday 13th December

Great Northern, Byron Bay

Thursday 17th December

ANU Bar, Canberra

Friday 18th December

Gaelic Theatre, Sydney

Moreover, they are currently in the midst of releasing a fortnightly series of videos entitled ‘From The Bunker’. Each video will catalogue them recording demos of new songs, as well as some older songs which they play live but haven’t released formally.

The first seven videos are already out but you can catch the rest at www.papavspretty.com

The First Session – Club 77

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You can purchase their EP on Papa vs. Pretty, at gigs or by mail order via their myspace.

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