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Albums of the week: From Biffy Clyro to James Dean Bradfield


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Biffy Clyro's latest offering

Biffy Clyro's latest offering

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Biffy Clyro's latest offering

BIFFY CLYRO - A CELEBRATION OF ENDINGS

Twenty-five years down, Simon Neil and co's enthusiasm for their craft and all its eccentricities remain undiminished.

A Celebration Of Endings sits among Biffy Clyro's tightest, most streamlined albums.

No longer the emotive tricksters of 2009's Only Revolutions and 2013's Opposites, the Scottish alternative rock titans opt for serious experimentation, ambition and anger.

What the album lacks in humour it makes up in fervour, with opener North Of No South fusing barbershop-style vocals with a driving motorik rhythm.

The band have talked recently of how, despite their best intentions, it was inevitable their political anger - against politicians, against Brexit - would permeate through the record.

This explains the pressure cooker vibe although the album does not make politics its lyrical focus. Album closer Cop Syrup builds layers of jangling guitars and rising strings (nodding to early cinematic Radiohead) until it crescendos with screaming and crashing guitars.

A Celebration Of Endings certainly sits among the band's best albums. It's certainly their angriest.

7/10, Alex Green

MARSICANS - URSA MAJOR

Ursa Major, the debut offering from Northern boys Marsicans bursts open with soaring guitars tracked over catchy riffs and hard hitting bass.

This expansive, 16-song tracklist could be a blur of their happy go-lucky, pop-rock sound - but it often swoops into slower paces. It's peppered with interludes that give breathing space to get the guns fired up again, so the album isn't all one big monster stomp of huge sound.

Singer James Newbigging's thick and smooth vocals, a little bit Tim Burgess, a little bit Vampire Weekend, adds a depth to the songs. There's a bit of variation - These Days is bound to be a big hit and has the potential to amp up the festival crowds with its smooth, lazy, low-fi guitar riffs over a polished rhythm section, while Can I Stay Here Forever takes risks with big, theatrical chord changes over the telltale bounce and skip of textbook indie.

Yet the band veers off course with the sprawling Leave Me Outside, stepping away from the standard pop song structure by adding creatively orchestrated different sections.

It's a well-constructed feat. Not just another indie pop band - Ursa Major pack a punch. It's whimsical indie rock at its best.

7/10, Sophie Goodall

JAMES DEAN BRADFIELD - EVEN IN EXILE

A concept album about the life and death of Chilean folk singer and activist Victor Jara, Even In Exile is a labour of love for James Dean Bradfield.

The Manic Street Preachers frontman sets to music words written by poet Patrick Jones - brother of his bandmate Nicky Wire - to evoke the defiance and bravery of Jara.

The man who served as a cultural ambassador for President Salvador Allende's government was tortured and murdered after the US-backed coup that installed Augusto Pinochet as dictator in September 1973.

Opener Recuerda starts ominously with Bradfield singing about a regime that "disappeared those who would not obey" while The Boy From The Plantation is from the point of view of Jara's mother: "I knew when I cradled you that you were going to shine."

Much of the album is impressionistic rather than purely biographical - and three of the 11 tracks are instrumentals, including the melancholic Under The Mimosa Tree, while there's a cover of Jara's La Partida.

Elsewhere, there are enough crunching guitars and soaring choruses to keep Manics fans happy. Album closer Santiago Sunrise is suitably elegiac, with Bradfield singing "memories of battles lost have never gone away" in tribute to a man whose legacy endures nearly half a century after his death.

8/10, Matthew George

SEA GIRLS - OPEN UP YOUR HEAD

This debut album from indie-rockers Sea Girls is an enjoyable romp through late night antics, the stench of experience and the unbearable feelings of longing and belonging.

The foursome have been around long enough to have built a loyal fanbase, having performed at Reading and Leeds Festival three years in a row. The album is pretty relatable to many - to the teens heading off to university where a plethora of experiences await, to those who are a bit older, who clambered through those awkward, bewildering times in which the drunken memories come rushing back.

There's no denying it's a fantastic festival-ready offering with plenty of catchy riffs that you'll find yourself humming along to when you least expect.

Nevertheless, it's just another typical indie album, lacking the ingredients to be considered a groundbreaking piece. Highlights include Damage Done, Do You Really Wanna Know, Closer and Weight In Gold.

7/10, Charlotte Kelly

Belfast Telegraph