Biffy Clyro have a certain level of cryptic wildness to their lyricism and sound, and it would seem a level of this has transferred onto their touring guitarist’s solo release. Today, Mike Vennart, formerly of Oceansize for thirteen years, releases his debut album, The Demon Joke, a record penned, “in posh hotel rooms whilst on tour all over the world with Biffy”. In the words of the man himself, “there’s moments of beauty but also lots of weird noises and things that are designed to irritate people.”
255 commences proceedings, a minute of sparkling, cinematic instrumental leading into a somewhat sullen but synth-poppy number, the sort of soaring, epic, slant of U2’s City of Blinding Lights, shockingly contrasting the finale of crude, psychedelic fuzz. This is one of the “right thing at the wrong time” moments on the album, a track lulling you into a sense of subdued bliss, before punching you in the stomach with a final note. Artistic? Yes. Appealing? Eh, not so.
This fat fuzz goes on to open Doubt, a track which matches piano and vocals perfectly, and then throws them against the incongruity of grungey riffs. These juxtapositions are the biggest drive of the album, not because they’re necessarily the best part, but because they’re the most obvious in their unapologetic presentation. Synths meet skeletal riffs in a cross-tide of vocals on Infatuate, and a comically childish opening to Rebirthmark fights a 3.46 battle with melancholy tinged vocals.
Whilst Duke Fame is a rather uninteresting filler track, Don’t Forget The Joker brings in a mingle of organ synth, massive stadium vocals, and a handful of intricate, intimate moments, a personal favourite off the record. So far so good, a few dud moments but in general, Vennart keeps a sense of balance across the tracks, which is then lost in seventh Retaliate. The song tries too hard to reach too many corner of the musical spectrum, and it results in a stretched, mauled, and ruptured four minutes.
A Weight In The Hollow draws this back to a sound that Coldplay might create in a similar universe, and there’s a gang vocals potential in penultimate Operate that makes it one bound to be a fan favourite. Closing Amends has a very strong Biffy Clyro’s Opposite vibe to it, slipping in a Foo Fighters growl to the final leg. Though it sticks closest to the idea of straight up modern rock, this is another one that’s bound to be popular.
At time it feels like Vennart is trying to hard to juxtapose the incongruities across the ten tracks, and despite it retaining its appeal when pulled apart, swallowed as one it can sound overdone and marred for it. There’s no arguing that it’s a talented and original work.