Austin Hargrave
July 14, 2016 at 08:13 PM EDT
We gave it a B-

Hard rock never goes out of style. There’s something about the words-and-guitar, cranked-amp formula that makes bands like Shinedown, Seether, and Puddle of Mudd remain perennial staples on the airwaves. On their seventh album Ellipsis, Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro — who’ve opened for alt-rock standard bearers Foo Fighters — tap into that perpetual demand for souped-up riffage with more high-octane jams that superficially hit the genre’s sweet spot.

You can infer a lot by who a band associates with. For Ellipsis, Biffy Clyro turned to longtime Muse producer Rich Costey, who has also manned the boards for arena-ready bands like Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, and the Joy Formidable. That could explain why Ellipsis, even at its best, sounds like an amalgam of those artists. The seething “Animal Style” is the standout track on the album largely because it sounds like Interpol’s Paul Banks fronting early Franz Ferdinand. Conversely, mid-tempo ballad “Re-arrange” suggests Costey took the wrong lessons from producing Death Cab for Cutie’s lackluster 2015 effort Kintsugi.

At its core, Ellipsis is a proficient alt-rock record. There’s the acoustic weeper (“Medicine”), the anthemic opener (“Wolves of Winter”), and the stylistic chin-scratcher (“Small Wishes,” which sounds like Blink-182 putting their spin on Scott Joplin). But tracks like “Herex,” which calls to mind peak Panic! at the Disco, have an earnest charm that somewhat counteracts their unoriginality. Still, the songs on Ellipsis don’t hold up to repeat listens in the way the canonical alt-rock cuts they evoke do.

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