Album Review: Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Ride

By on Monday, 6th June 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Words by Aine Cronin-McCartney

Nothing seems to be able to stop the rise and rise of the Catfish and the Bottlemen at the moment. After the release of their debut album ‘The Balcony’ in 2014, the group have had a spectacularly successful time since. Their ascent from obscurity into the illustrious position they now hold in the mainstream music sphere has been astonishing. Catfish and the Bottlemen’s second album ‘The Ride’ was released as a surprise on the 27th of May. It follows a 2015 filled by an abundance of festival slots and sold out shows across the UK. These taken together likely helped them secure British Breakthrough Act at the 2016 Brit Awards despite doubts from some critics.

While musically very similar to their first release, ‘The Ride’ epitomises everything that is good about British indie rock: certainly a revived and revitalised genre, and far from being dead. The self-confessed crowd pleasers, spoke ahead of the release of their second album with frontman and lead singer Van McCann explaining to NME, “I feel like everybody started thinking too outside the box, trying to be arty and different. We wanted to stay inside the box.” For many, this sort of proclamation would have them give up music altogether. As McCann says, simplicity is the key to the masses. Along with their meat and potatoes philosophy towards their music, the Bottlemen have amassed a very dedicated following. Their appeal with their no nonsense approach has perhaps been the secret to the Bottlemen’s success and the phenomenon of their influence.

Staying true to writing what he knows, a lot of McCann’s lyrics revolve around a lot of recurring motifs that were very present in ‘The Balcony’, including girls, relationships, touring and parties. Opening song ‘7’ expands a stripped-back guitar into a strong acoustic bridge. This gives way to what could almost be described as the quintessential Bottlemen chorus with its soaring refrain, showing the band have a steady understanding of the subtleties of arena-sized rock. The Bottlemen’s secret weapon that comes in the form of frontman Van McCann oozes such a natural confidence, and while his lyrics are not as profound as some, they are laden with vivid imagery that make a connection with their audience.

‘Oxygen’ is an up-tempo track that exudes with pulsating appeal, its soaring chorus quite reminiscent of songs by Oasis when they were in their prime. Having always been very vocal for their love and affinity for the Mancunian band, plus procuring Dave Sardy as their producer, meant that such comparisons were inevitable. But that does not necessarily make for a bad thing. There has been seemingly large void to fill for a while, with no UK band being able to leave an impression on the music scene that Oasis once occupied. Perhaps Catfish and the Bottlemen are the band to do so.

Songs ‘Heathrow’ and ‘Glasgow’ are the only songs that break up the continuance of anthemic rock throughout the album, providing a very welcome disruption. ‘Heathrow’ certainly feels like an attempt to imitate a self-confessional styled acoustic number. It manages to create an ominous atmosphere while emphasising McCann’s ability as a vocalist, making it one of the album’s standout songs. In comparison, ‘Glasgow’ fails to hit the mark with its desperately one-dimensional and simplistic guitar playing and unremarkable vocals.

The album is certainly delivered with a level of maturity and sophistication that was evidently absent in ‘The Balcony’. There’s a much more deliberate approach to evolving their stadium sized rock sound. The new material has shown the Bottlemen to be much more than initially perceived supplying the masses with stories and tales of everyman’s ride through life. And it’s all neatly packaged with their easy to swallow lyrics that you are sure to hear bellowed at every festival this summer. It is almost impossible to not find yourself being swept along by the undeniably catchy choruses and melodic guitar. This is especially true on songs such as ‘Soundcheck’ (video above), with its rising chorus and brazen self-confidence.

While there are no truly massive standout moments from the new album, ‘The Ride’ will certainly succeed in connecting with audiences and inciting stadium-sized singalongs. Maybe album three will give The Bottlemen the classic hit they are trying so desperately to find?

6/10

‘The Ride’, the sophomore album from Welsh band Catfish and the Bottlemen, is out now on Island Records. For more on the band on TGTF, go here.

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