Since the release of their debut The Balcony in 2014, the quintessential indie kid has been head-banging to the ferocious alt-rock tunes of Catfish and the Bottlemen. If the quirky name didn’t draw you in, it was the formidable guitars, warbling vocals or unashamedly audacious lyricism that cracked you. Yet, a certain degree of the audience was disappointed with an album that unraveled to be merely a cocktail of sex and drugs and alcohol masked by thunderous instruments. However, since the release of the single Soundcheck, anticipation has been rising for their follow-up album The Ride.
And what’s it like?
Firstly, Catfish have got to be commended for sticking to what they know. Their extravagant success – such as winning Best British Breakthrough Act at this year’s BRITS – hasn’t seemed to phase them, as they continue to appear content producing tracks that highlight the sheer power of a humble guitar and vocals. Basically, they’re not the type to throw in a techno bass and say ‘Hey, look how with-the-times we are!’ And what they do with a few humble guitars and vocals is just as admirable. The choruses and instrumental sections have been noticeably enriched since The Balcony days, with guitars even more robust and blazing drums to make each number all the more arena-worthy. There’s a hint of hearty Oasis-ness in the tracks Oxygen and Heathrow particularly, versus the seething riffs explored in “Soundcheck”, “Red” and “7”.
There’s no doubt that energy and confidence seeps throughout the track list. There is a certain authenticity to this album; it sounds as though on “Glasgow”, Van McCann and his guitar have been recorded on the same microphone, not to mention the hint of sweet sincerity in the lyrics of the song, that include taking this track’s love interest “over the threshold”. At the same time, the band couldn’t resist adding further references to their omnipotent drunken state when they describe “falling home drunk”. Their continued worship of the aforementioned sex and drugs and alcohol undermines an album so instrumentally resilient. It forces me into avoiding taking this supreme indie force completely seriously. I appreciate the raw, real-life approach that it has on the songs, but I think it’s fair to say that two albums centred around the same droning topic can get a little wearisome
What are the album’s best songs?
Red is your archetypal Catfish crowd-pleaser. It opens with grungy guitars, almost quite Nirvana-esque, followed by deliciously blatant lyrics barked by McCann. An especially vigorous hook precedes a raging chorus, and Catfish demonstrate why they are top of the indie league. Juxtaposing this is the softer “Heathrow”, in which the lyrics actually describe a love with some substance, and evoke a touch of sympathy for McCann, who is “nothing much” compared to the girl he is striving for. A simple assembly of basic chords paired alongside heartfelt vocals makes for a pleasingly candid ballad, providing a harmonious break from the thrashing guitars.
Are there any music videos and/or audio?
What’s the final verdict?
Overall, The Ride has confirmed Catfish are gratified in making no-nonsense rock hits, guaranteed to make you smile. Their instrumental talent is unmistakable, yet their uncompromising subject matter does put the album on the verge of immature. But, whether you like it or not, Catfish and the Bottlemen – and their alcohol – are here to stay.
Words by Eleanor Chivers.