Editors’ Notes Biffy Clyro’s eighth album came, says frontman Simon Neil, from “looking at the world and thinking, ‘Where are we?’ Normally I’m a love song kind of fellow, but this is the first time I’ve been stimulated by perspective. This is the first album where the spark came from the outside.” And if that sounds like it’s all a response to the global pandemic in which it was delivered, A Celebration of Endings was, in fact, completed months prior—inspired by the Scots’ concerns around the climate crisis and a troubling political landscape, as well as their disdain for an older generation refusing to make way for change (see the brilliantly scathing “The Champ”). Still, the way 2020 turned out left the record with an eerie resonance. “I think it’s inevitable that people will listen to the lyrics and these songs and it will have to be refracted through [the pandemic],” admits Neil. “It’s made people reset, and people now realize we don’t have time to wait around for change. We need to make it happen ourselves.”

A Celebration of Endings is, too, the product of Biffy—also made up of brothers Ben and James Johnston—seeking new ways to evolve as one of Britain’s most cherished rock bands. Reuniting with US producer Rich Costey (Fiona Apple, The Mars Volta), with whom Biffy worked on 2016’s more drawn-in Ellipsis, and buoyed by the freedom of writing a film soundtrack (for the 2019 indie flick Balance, Not Symmetry), they pushed themselves towards thrilling new places. There’s all the heaviness you might hope for (“End Of,” “Worst Type of Best Possible”), but there’s also the pop-adjacent “Instant History,” twanging guitars with euphoric choruses (“Tiny Indoor Fireworks”), and cinematic strings. At the album's most mind-bending moment, they unexpectedly meet thrashing guitars, screaming vocals, and lyrics drenched in attitude on the heavenly, life-affirming “Cop Syrup.” “There’s still plenty of grime under the fingernails on this album,” says James Johnston. “And I think the beautiful tapestry of the band is that you can retain those things that make your identity. But you don't just fall back on them as a safeguard all the time.” Let Biffy take you on a guided tour of their eighth album, one song at a time.

North of No South
SN: “The opening track is probably the most important song on any record, because it sets out your stall. Sometimes we like to do the exact opposite of that and misdirect a little bit. But on this album, ‘North of No South’ is very much a statement about the entire album. It's ballsy. It's pure. It’s a Biffy rock song and it felt like a bombastic start to the record. It’s about the decisions you make in life. For us, there were a few personal and professional decisions we had to make in terms of relationships with people and whether we saw a way to move forward—whether we could cut our losses and move on. And in the world, we’re in this place where it’s like, ‘Let’s just fucking cut our losses and make the best of what we can.’”

The Champ
SN: “There’s been a couple of songs throughout our career where we’ve had this feeling that if we were Adele, they would definitely be the Bond theme. That’s what ‘The Champ’ felt like. This was the first song that really defined this record. For me, it felt like as soon as we had the direction of this song, it was like the backbone of this record. And it feels like we could have only written this song at this stage of our career. Previously, we wouldn’t have had the patience to let it really grow. It just gets bigger and bigger, but equally there's no real splash moment. It was one of the first songs we did with the orchestra at Abbey Road Studio Two, which is where The Beatles recorded all their stuff. Whenever you hear an orchestra, [it comes from] a spark of an idea that starts in such a small place—normally me in the house playing my guitar—and then you fast-forward 10 months and you've got tons of wonderfully talented people playing it in this beautiful room.”

Weird Leisure
SN: “Only our band could do this song. The shift into the chorus is one of my favorite shifts that we've ever done—it just doesn't make any sense, but it makes perfect sense. And this song is definitely different to the rest of the record. It’s about a friend who was succumbing to drugs, and it’s about how life can just really pass you by. If you're in a horrible position, if you feel depressed, you need to try—as hard as it can be—to move forward and find people to share things with. At the end of this song, in the typical Biffy way, it’s like, ‘Now it’s my turn.’ So it's like, ‘Fuck it then, I'll get the drugs. If that's the way it's going, let's just obliterate everything.’ The title is about how drugs are a weird thing. They’re not a leisure activity. They don’t settle you down. Sometimes I just think it’s such an odd thing, taking drugs. We were born in the pause—this moment where we can just think about ourselves and lose ourselves and discover things. The generation now doesn't have the freedom to do that. There’s no time. And kids don't want to take drugs anymore.”

Tiny Indoor Fireworks
SN: “There are certain songs that, even when you’re recording them, just feel right. This song is pure joy, it’s pure feeling. Which isn’t something we’re known for in our music. It’s about when you have those days and times when you just feel like everything is going against you. Every decision you make is kind of the wrong one or it feels like it's making your life harder. And the song is kind of about just trying to stay optimistic. Whatever you have to do to stay optimistic, I think, is worthwhile. Because it can't be understated how important it is, and I'm quoting my own lyrics, to pray for the better days. It also references when I’m going to sleep and I feel my synapses are just exploding with thoughts and it feels like there are ‘tiny indoor fireworks’ in your head. You can't stop them. And it's just about trying to temper that down a little bit.”

Worst Type of Best Possible
SN: “This is the other side of ‘Tiny Indoor Fireworks.’ This is when you don't feel that you have the strength to get through things, but you’re holding out for change. You’re not expecting everything to be wonderful, but something needs to move. There’s a pleading aspect to this song, and those riffs at the start and the end are like the moments of reality. You’re like, ‘Oh, here we go.’ Musically, it’s such a Biffy thing to do. I love how heavy this song is, too. I'm used to letting more people in to the personal side of me, so there's almost like a comfort in revealing a little bit of my heart again.”

Space
SN: “It feels like there's a tension building at the start of this record. ‘Space’ adds a moment to exhale. The song is about longing, it's about wanting to be with someone, and it's about conciliation. It's the simplest song on the record. Sometimes you can overwork songs, and there were a few different ways we could have taken this. And actually, we took the obvious choice, which is ‘Let’s put some big strings on it. Let's make this heartfelt.’ We tried fucking around with it and then we thought, we are ruining the beauty of this song. Because it was so honest, with almost a naive perspective. When I'm writing songs, I do try to write from a naive perspective, because as a grown man you can be cynical. It's so basic, but hopefully beautiful. It's quite funny because it sounds like a pure love song. A couple of long-term relationships, personal and professional, came to an end. It kind of made me realize that people take certain paths. It doesn't mean that you’re necessarily ever going to stop loving them. But actually, it's maybe not best to be together. You know, you kind of need to fight your own battles. It's a hopeful song, and we're not renowned for that.”

End Of
JJ: “This wakes you back up again. I feel like the start of the song is like when you’re outside a dirty club and you're quite scared to go in. But you want to go in. You want to get in there and just feel like a 14-year-old. I specifically think of The Arches in Glasgow, which is a really dirty place. This song just has that grime under its fingernails in the way that those lush, emotional strings of ‘Space’ don’t. It’s like, ‘We’re still a rock band!’ There is a lyric in this song, ‘This is not a love song/That was just a phase.’ You know, it wasn’t really just a phase. It was 18 years of work! As much as ‘End Of’ is not a love song, I'm fairly sure that will inhabit our world again. But the vitriol in this song kind of suggests that there is no love here for the minute.”

Instant History
SN: “The shiniest, prettiest song on the record and it shows the creative adventure we've gone on. It’s such a different vibe for us. It's most definitely not a political song or album, but it’s about feeling like I need to voice who I am, what I believe in. It’s about discovering that moment and yourself where you go, ‘Actually, you know what? I'm going to speak up for what I care about.’”

The Pink Limit
SN: “Probably the first time a song has ever come from anything other than guitars. As soon as I heard this rhythm Ben was playing, it was like, ‘This is a fucking song!’ And it was that kind of old-school Biffy way of thinking where I knew it was awkward and I wanted to make it into this pretty kind of pop song. The album was almost called The Pink Limit. I love that phrase so much—it's like just reaching the end of your tether like as humans, as a person. You cut us open and we're all pink. I love it. But it ended up feeling a little bit too throwaway, a bit too comedic as a title, which is why we went for A Celebration of Endings. The song is about taking responsibility for what you’re doing. If you choose to believe in something, go for it. But don’t try and indoctrinate other people and don't criticize people for just having a certain way of thought. If it brings them happiness and it's no shit off your shovel, then who cares?”

Opaque
SN: “This song is another very personal one. It’s kind of exposed and it’s about someone taking your kindness for weakness. Not to be too specific about it, but it's about when I feel like songs that I really cared about were just being seen as a product or being taken for granted. Or when you really kind of reveal yourself and you're exposing a part of yourself and then someone just treats it like it's just a product. I understand we’re on a major label and everything, but at a certain point, you are giving a piece of your heart and a piece of your soul to your music. So this song is about someone who doesn’t care at all about the heart and soul of it, who just cares about the bottom line. And it's me kind of saying, ‘Cool, if that's what you're all about, then that's fine. But I ain't about that.’”

Cop Syrup
SN: “This and ‘Opaque’ have the same instrumentation, but my god they couldn’t be more different. I’m fucking proud of this song. It started as a punk rock song with this kind of psychedelic chord pattern. I didn’t know where it would go. But the song is exactly how I wanted the record to end. Kind of like, ‘I've reached a point in my life where I'm quite sure of what I believe in, what I care about and I don't need. And I don't need convinced one way or the other.’ It’s about having your beliefs and knowing what you want to fight for personally, as well as outwardly. The song is obstinate, it's pretty, it's aggressive, it's sure of itself. It's a different kind of rock song for us to do, but the whole song is about extremes. When we were recording it, everyone kept saying, ‘You need to make it shorter, it's too long.’ And we were like, ‘You don't get it—it only works when it's so extreme.’ And the middle section has ended up more beautiful than I could possibly imagine. It doesn't really resolve, which is why I love it. I mean, I wanted it to go on forever. There's a few songs that I look back on like, ‘Where was my head at when that happened?’ I feel like this is going to be that song for us. I know that this song, I'll look back in a few years and I'll go, ‘Fuck, how did you write that? How did that happen?’”

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