tue 16/08/2022

CD: Catfish and the Bottlemen - The Balcony | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Catfish and the Bottlemen - The Balcony

CD: Catfish and the Bottlemen - The Balcony

A short, sweet debut from oddly-named Welsh four-piece

Catfish and the Bottlemen: 'Four lads rattling through three-minute garage rock songs full of sweary, lovelorn couplets'

The story is a familiar one: four lads rattling through three-minute garage rock songs full of sweary, lovelorn couplets. With the exception of the name (a tribute, apparently, to a busker that frontman Van McCann met as a child) there’s little to set Llandudno four-piece Catfish and the Bottlemen apart on paper - but there’s something about their debut album that makes me smile.

Clocking in at just under 40 minutes, making it the perfect length for my walk home from work, The Balcony is the aural equivalent of orange squash: drunk too often it tastes cheap and a little bit sickly, but sometimes nothing hits the spot like a guitar band.

The influences are writ large here: a little Arctic Monkeys swagger, a few clever rhythmic tricks reminiscent of The Walkmen. Taking the straight-talking of the former’s Alex Turner for his lyrical cues but lacking the same natural observational humour, McCann’s love songs are of the “I love you, but your friends can do one” variety (it’s swearier on the record). New single “Fallout” ends with the awkward revelation: “I was a test tube baby, that’s why nobody gets me” - a line so unfortunate it distracts from the song’s big, soaring chorus, which is really rather good.

After a good 18 months spent honing their craft the old-fashioned way - with endless gigs and an exhausting festival calendar - it’s no surprise that the band has made an art form of those big choruses, even if the end result can get a little samey. “Pacifier” is the album’s big arms-the-air number, while opener “Homesick” teams an infectious little syncopated rhythm with a soaring stadium-filler of a chorus that punches above its weight. When they move away from the formula the cracks in the songwriting show: the lyrics of “Hourglass”, the album’s acoustic midpoint, are as cringey as the album’s crass cover art - but hey, this is a band young enough to write a song about a forbidden older love and call it “26”. They’ve got time.

Overleaf: listen to "Fallout" by Catfish and the Bottlemen


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