Tag Archives: The Balcony

Chasing Tail

Well it’s been awhile hasn’t it? I’d like to say I have an excuse — like taking 18 hours of intensive writing courses and doing publicity for more than one artist — but really those don’t hold up in court because I’ve been out of school for over a month. Honestly, it’s been so long that when I logged onto WordPress I was surprised to see that my blog was still getting steady views.

The truth is, I work a shit ton and I’m just tired and these posts take time. But I’m back, and I’m here to stay (but you’ve heard that before, haven’t you?).

For my millionth debut, I bring you yet another from The Bottlemen.

Album: The Ride
Artist: Catfish and the Bottlemen

The Ride

Since all of you have been longtime readers, you know that I’ve written about CATB before, sometime in early 2015. They had released their album only a few months prior at that point and were touring the States for what I believe was the first time.

My how times have changed.

Now they’re back in the States and they’re bigger and better than they were last time, but I’m getting ahead of myself. This isn’t a live review. This is an album review.

Catfish and the Bottlemen released their sophomore album, The Ride, just last month on May 27, this time with Capitol Records. It’s another short album — only about 40 minutes long — and it managed to peak at number 1 on the Official U.K. Albums Chart. Here in the states, it peaked at 28 on the Billboard 200, which is about a hundred places higher than their debut.

All in all, I’m not totally sure what I was expecting from CATB the second time around, but somehow I think they managed to both deliver and disappoint at the same time. I’m not saying it’s a bad album, but things have certainly changed.

I feel like this is a good point to mention that Dave Sardy produced The Ride. This small tidbit of information honestly confused me a little. Sardy has worked with everyone — including The Bottlemen’s heroes, Oasis — but this particular piece of production was actually quite disappointing.

Catfish, for their part, delivered quite well I think. Lyrically, The Ride doesn’t quite stand up to The Balcony, but gems like “7” hit you with classic Van McCann lines like “I don’t think through things, I never get time cause I don’t think things through.”

The best songs on the album can hold up to the CATB we’ve grown to know and love, but the rest seems like filler. Musically, every song manages to catch the audience’s attention, especially with the soaring riffs found in “Twice” and “Postpone,” and softer, acoustic tracks like “Glasgow” and “Heathrow” keep the album from sounding like more of the same.

But what about that production element I spoke of earlier? Well. Let me tell you.

The production was honestly what upset me most about the album. It just wansn’t up to par. Catfish’s sound hasn’t changed for the worse, but The Ride comes across as too clean cut. It lacks a rougher element that The Balcony brought to the table. Musically, they’ve leaned towards The Strokes but cleaned up their sound like they’re trying to hide something. It’s an odd combination, to say the least.

In short, it’s an album that was meant to be performed live, and Van McCann will tell you that himself. The Ride’s tendency for live performance only becomes more evident when you hear it in person. In fact, I didn’t decide that I liked the album officially until after I saw them in St. Louis Tuesday night. The way The Bottlemen play together only reinforces how good the material actually is, and boy can they put on a show. It was even better than the last time I saw them.

In short, The Ride is a pretty good listen — if you’re willing to listen with an open mind. It’s not The Balcony, but then again, I’d be disappointed if it was.

Honorable Mentions: 7, Twice, Emily, Red, Heathrow

Catfishing

Look at that. A post that was promised and it’s even on time. Please, hold the applause.

Album: The Balcony                                                      Artist: Catfish and the Bottlemen

Catfish

Honestly, I don’t know that much about this band. They’re from Whales, which is pretty cool. I don’t know about that many bands from Whales. I do know that they’re fairly new on the scene having just come together in 2010. According to their Wikipedia page, they started off playing covers of The Beatles (which earns them mad respect points) and eventually moved on to writing their own stuff. Originally they just played “opening” gigs in parking lots before other artists’ shows. Soon enough they got their record deal in 2013 and emerged fast by playing the festival route the following year. In September of 2014 they dropped their debut, The Balcony. That was in the UK. Don’t ask me when the good ol’ U.S. of A got it cause I can’t tell you.

So before I say anything about the band or the album, I want to point out that frontman Van McCann (not his real name, but I wish it was) claims his inspiration comes from The Strokes and Oasis. What does this tell us? 1) he has really good taste in music and 2) he’s fond of 90s music. He might be my favorite person already. And might I just say, Catfish nails it.

Now Ben Homewood of NME called Catfish’s sound “about nine years too late.” He said it (or, wrote it rather) pretty negatively. His review called The Balcony “ham-fisted” (whatever that means) and goes on to slam McCann’s lyrics and the band’s overall sound.

My opinion? Homewood just doesn’t appreciate what Catfish is bringing to the table. Or maybe I’m just sentimental. This album is about nine years too late, and I can give him that. But it’s honestly something that needs to be here and now.

So what is their overall sound? Well if Oasis and The Strokes had a baby that grew up to become a rebellious indie teenager under the influence of The Arctic Monkeys, it would be Catfish and the Bottlemen. So let’s talk about that for a second.

First of all, I have mad respect for the band. They said they wanted to sound like The Strokes and Oasis and they do (if not a little lighter on the Oasis side). Not many really pull that off. So maybe that’s a good thing, and maybe that’s a bad thing. Maybe they aren’t original enough. Maybe they know exactly who they want to be as musicians. It could go either way. Regardless, they bring the “indie” sound to an old favorite.

Now The Balcony had it’s fair share of singles. Usually I hate people who only know/talk about the singles, but I’m gonna be that person for a second. I feel like CATB definitely picked their strongest songs to release, and it did them a world of good. “Pacifier” opens up with a distorted guitar riff that’s just screechy enough to hear a definite melody. It’s fast paced and heavy on the drums, and McCann’s actually quite the vocalist. There’s something to say about artists who aren’t afraid to roughen their voice. It’s quite honestly 90s-tastic. And if The Strokes’ influence wasn’t apparent enough in that track, there’s always the ever so pop-rock “Kathleen.”

As far as lyrics, I can admit that McCann has some work to do. He wrote most of The Balcony’s tracks when he was just fifteen and sixteen, so yeah. Some of them are the work of a teenage boy. But some of them hold insight that most sixteen year old boys don’t have. For example, in “Pacifier,” McCann mourns a lack of understanding with a lover as he cries “You just don’t know how it feels to lose/something you never had and never will,” which is a concept I think most people don’t often think about.

The Balcony received mixed reviews. Most critics put it somewhere in the high-middle. Some loved it. Some (like Mr. Homewood) hated it. Regardless of what other critics think though, I liked the album. It’s got something that I think a lot of younger people missed out on in the late 90s and early 2000s — something that I think they shouldn’t have missed out on, and something I was very fortunate to be very exposed to (thanks Lindsay & Erin!). Catfish is merely reviving their opportunity.

Personally, I think they’re a band who know exactly who they want to be. I like what they’ve got and they can only grow from here. I’m very excited to see where they take their sudden fame. And I’m also very excited to see them next month.

Until next week (or whenever the hell it is I post these days), keep listening 🙂