In these days of short attention spans and homogenized musical gunk, it’s reassuring to see the Scottish alt-rockers get within touching distance of the rock summit without sugarcoating their uniquely restless and oddball sound. That said, their fifth album sheds a little of the combustive punk angst of their early years, but their off-center soundscapes, volcanic riffing and knack for an epic chorus remain intact. If there’s been any change, the hairy trio have woven in a few layers of refinement, with an imaginative but restrained use of string and brass, most notably on “Mountain” and “The Captain.” This time round, songwriter Simon Neil’s normally oblique lyrics seem more concerned with exploring his new marital status, but then along comes the album standout: the fierce and addictive “Bubbles”—a timely reminder that beauty and the beast complement each other perfectly in Biffy’s world. C.B. Liddell
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