Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Balcony
Catfish and the Bottlemen sound older than they are in more ways than one. Frontman Van McCann was named by his Van Morrison-adoring parents in honour of their hero; while his voice doesn’t quite have the honeyed lustre of The Belfast Cowboy’s, it does bear remarkable maturity for a 22-year-old. Similarly, he and his bandmates have conspired to create a debut album with a tight, accomplished musicality that belies their tender years. The problem comes with the fact that – for all the commendable craft at play on it – The Balcony has a distinctly stale whiff of 2003 about it.
There’s nothing wrong per se with a band wearing their retro influences on their sleeves, but rock audiences can hardly be said to be clamouring for an early-noughties revivalist movement. Hindsight being 20/20, we now know that few classic albums, and few acts with much staying power, were born of that era in indie music (with The Strokes and Kasabian notable exceptions), so The Bottlemen are uncorking a vintage that wasn’t particularly potent to begin with. Yet from start (blustery Razorlight-esque opener Homesick) to finish (Tyrants, which owes a debt to The Automatic and closes the album with a bloated drive-time jam, overstaying its welcome by a full 90 seconds), the Welshmen channel these ghosts of the past with a grim single-mindedness.
Lyrically speaking, it’s clear McCann has some growing up to do. This is a collection of songs dealing almost exclusively with the awkward angst that accompanies breathy early forays into the minefield of romance. The petulant frustrations of a bad boy sneered at by the peers of the good girl he desires get an airing twice: on Cocoon and Business (her friends “can f*cking do one” apparently), and the try-hard references to grizzly hard drinking peppered throughout the album are fooling no one.
This is a clearly talented bunch, who shine where a modicum of originality is displayed (such as on the spiky angular romp, 26), but the only real hope for Catfish and the Bottlemen’s future relies on them wrenching their eyes from the past and approaching songwriting with a bit more bottle.
The Balcony was released on 12th September 2014, for further information visit here.
Watch the video for Cocoon here: