Album Reviews

Catfish And The Bottlemen – The Balcony

(Communion/Island) UK release date: 15 September 2014


Catfish And The Bottlemen - The BalconyIt’s hard to think of an act that has been named after a busker; perhaps Catfish And The Bottlemen are the first, the busker in question being a character from frontman Van McCann’s early musical memories.

The quartet from Llandudno have been ripping up the airwaves for a while now. An ever increasing radio presence has added to their recognition as hardworking, hard touring and altogether decent chaps. They’ve also been busy on the festival front in 2014, casting their net ever further into the musical ocean with slots at Reading, Leeds, T In The Park and Bestival all featuring on their itinerary. Their presence is imminently about to be felt across the water too, as they embark on an extensive tour of North America later this month before returning home in November for yet more shows.

Homesick was the first single to surface in 2013 and that opens the debut long player, minimal beginnings leading to a loud/quiet song in the vein of Feeder; it’s a short cut bursting with energy, the perfect way to open an album. Another single, Kathleen, follows and is probably the best song here due to its sweeping, soaring chorus, where guitars saw in and out of the pounding percussion; it’s the type of track that could see a few repeat buttons being pressed. In fact, singles are all over the first half of the album – Cocoon is another, more upbeat anthemic stadium filling rock this time boasting a strong but short guitar solo. Fallout came out in May, more energetic indie rock whilst the impressive Pacifier attempts to head towards Foo Fighters’ territory.

Hourglass is a slower, quieter effort that breaks up the full on attack in a way that Biffy Clyro seem to pull off time and again. Business returns to the familiar anthemic formula but could probably do without resorting to misplaced expletives that surface (not for the first time) where they don’t really need to. 26 races along to a superb intro and excellent verses peppered with a subtle but sublime guitar riff, a rather lacklustre chorus disappointingly falling a little short after what’s gone before it. Rango was another single release from 2013 and it’s back to the loud/quiet structure before disappearing after a cacophony of guitars and drums.

Sidewinder is another decent effort that nods towards Dave Grohl and co once again before the magnificent Tyrants closes the album; at four and a half minutes it’s the longest cut on the collection. Galloping drums kick in for thrilling Arctic Monkeyslike verses before wailing guitars in the style of Kings Of Leon appear, a stuttered, broken chorus slowing things down until some of the best guitaring on the entire album precedes an anthemic section.

With virtually all UK dates sold out – barring Brighton’s Concorde 2 that has just seen The Holy Shits play a surprise gig (that’s Foo Fighters to you and I) – their popularity is clearly skyrocketing. McCann claims to have been inspired by The Strokes and Oasis, his goal to be bigger than both; but that’s not arrogance, that’s the admirable desire to be the best. The Balcony may not have the presence of a Definitely Maybe or an Is This It, but it’s certainly a solid step in the right direction.


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Catfish And The Bottlemen – The Balcony


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