Album reviews: Biffy Clyro | Wycliffe Gordon | The Dubliners

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Our critics review the week’s releases


Funeral For A Friend - Conduit

Distiller, £11.99

* *

Tetchy, bordering on fuming, the great Welsh hopes out of Bridgend never quite lived up to initial expectation, and these 11 songs have the hollow ring of disappointment. Opener Spine shouts and roars to no great effect. Much better is The Distance, but after 12 years you really would be hoping for something more. It fails to materialise, with Sun-Less being particularly if appropriately dreary. Grumpy boys with guitars but no songs to speak of might best consider calling it a day.

Colin Somerville

Download this: The Distance

Biffy Clyro - Opposites

Warners, £12.99

* * * *

The ridiculously nice boys who also happen to be Britain’s best rock band make another ludicrously good commercial guitar album. Their continual innate desire to push the envelope steers them clear from the rocks of cliché, but they occasionally bobble on turbulent waters. Black Chandelier is as good as any product of the Biffy formula, a pocket-sized anthem to fill huge arenas. The Joke’s On Us syncopates round the walls, powered by the ever-impressive Johnston brothers’ rhythm section. But have they taken the whole perversion of punk-progressive as far as it can go? Let us hope not…


Download this: Black Chandelier, The Joke’s On Us


Wycliffe Gordon - Dreams Of New Orleans

Chesky JD354, £12.99

* * *

Listening to this 15-track album of traditional New Orleans fare performed by such top New York-based musicians as trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso and guitarist Matt Munisteri, alongside trombone star (and Wynton Marsalis’s right-hand man) Wycliffe Gordon, it’s impossible not to be struck by the thought: how many more recorded versions of Tiger Rag and Bill Bailey do we need? But then something makes you sit up and pay attention: the striking, tango-style take on St Louis Blues which makes the oldest of war horses sound fresh and new; Kellso’s gorgeous, lyrical trumpet on Darktown Strutters’ Ball and Sweet Papa especially; or Gordon’s funky trombone, notably on Chinatown.

Alison Kerr

Download this: Down By The Riverside; Sweet Papa, Mama’s Getting Mad


The Dubliners - 50 Years

Baycourt IMEXCD0150, £10.99

* * * *

From 1962 to 2012, this mammoth recording captures the essence of the less-than-perfect lives that make up Ireland’s most famous singing group. In 50 tracks, recorded by 11 members, from the classic line-up of the band’s quartet inception through all of its subsequent tragic deaths and personnel changes, this is a unique piece of Irish social history. And if it’s very much a man’s world, from the opening Seven Drunken Nights to the penultimate Wild Rover, women are certainly audible among the hugely appreciative audiences.

Norman Chalmers

Download this: The Sick Note


George Frideric Handel

English Arias

Helios CDH55419, £5.99

* * * * *

The birth of the English oratorio – that is, the oratorio performed in the English language – was in a pub, the Crown and Anchor Tavern in London. And while the music was Handel’s, he wasn’t responsible for the innovation. Instead it was a friend, Bernard Gates, who reworked Handel’s Esther; and only when Handel’s harpsichord pupil Princess Anne demanded it be staged again did the composer himself take up the challenge. These reissued selections from his English oratorios demonstrate how he remoulded – and recycled – music to make it sound fresh. A sparkling performance from countertenor James Bowman, with the excellent King’s Consort.

Alexander Bryce

Download this: Great God! Who, Yet But Darkly Known