As the eighties gave way to the nineties, exposure to “indie” music saw major labels jump on the gravy train signing bands leading to the rebranding “alternative” with varying degrees of success until the bubble burst. MTV’s Unplugged was at it’s peak with performers either persuaded or eager to tweak their material to the format in some kind of right of passage to display their versatility. Many, although not all of these performances were commercially released, one such notable album being Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged Live in New York. In the dialogue scattered amongst their own material and a largely obsolete cover of the Beach Boys’ God Only Knows, Biffy Clyro acknowledge the influence of Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged album, revealing that there is their run-through of the album on a cassette tape somewhere.
If in a moment of inattention you miss the computer-voice sounding Scottish accented “We are Biffy Clyro” following an almost indecipherable audience chant of “Mon the Biff”, one could be forgiven for mistaking this music for Scotland’s other inoffensive anthemic contemporaries Snow Patrol especially on opener The Captain. The released set focuses on the band’s last three albums so is an overview of only their last four (and ten years of) releases, and largely ignores their less commercial, experimental early material in favour of the audience friendly emotional sing-alongs such as Black Chandelier, Folding Stars and suitable set closer Machines.
On this release recorded in the confines of London’s legendary Roundhouse venue, guitarist Simon Neil and the brothers Johnston (James on bass, Ben on drums) are augmented by touring members Mike Vennart on guitar, Richard Ingram on piano with cellist Justine Blankfield. Besides the aforementioned extraneous solo cover of God Only Knows by Simon Neil there is the addition of what is described as “kind of a new song”, Different Kind of Love. No matter how hard you try to resist, eventually the catchy epic anthems Bubbles and Many of Horror will pull the heartstrings.
Inside the cover of the single CD version booklet (a CD+DVD also available) there is a faux set list omitting the three tracks that were not included on this release due to quality control.
This could be regarded as a primer for the uninitiated but due to the acoustic nature it would probably be better to seek out the originals. For those already in the know, this is fair addition to the regular live and studio albums and they would likely be better served by the CD+DVD version.
Album Review by Jason Leigh