Spotlight on ‘The Balcony’
Welsh indie rock quartet, Catfish and the Bottlemen — their name comes from a homeless street-performer the vocalist, Van McCann, met as a child — recently released their first full length album “The Balcony.”
This album, releasing a year after the band’s signing to Island Records, is a powerful entry into the mainstream music scene.
For their first full album release, “The Balcony” is an extremely successful effort. The band’s influences from Oasis and Arctic Monkeys are immediately audible from the strike of the first fuzzy, melodic chord and McCann’s dulcet yet gritty croon.
Despite these similarities, they have an undeniable energy and presence of their own. In both vocal intensity and the freight train push of instrumentals, they thrust everything borrowed from their luminaries to new heights.
In a musical landscape filled with generic “Mumford” bands, who seem bent on packing as many inane instruments onto their albums as possible, their classic four-piece-rock formula is incredibly refreshing.
Not only that, but they make excellent use of negative space. For every moment of orchestrated intensity, there is another where they let a distorted lead riff or series of high-hat crashes stand alone.
At its core, “The Balcony” is an 11 track composite of UK indie rock style and punk rock sensibility.
Despite their upbeat, high-tempo instrumentation, Catfish and the Bottlemen strike at a number of heavier motifs: failing relationships, alienation, narcissism, sex and heavy drinking.
The opening track and first single “Homesick” opens with McCann singing “I got misled, mistook, discard / anything that I said / see I’m not the type to call you up drunk / but I’ve got some lies to tell,” in complete silence, before the instrumentals come in full force.
These songs revel in the emotional chaos of youth. From start to finish, the album is a love letter to the mid-20s, packed with anthems for wild, lonely nights.
In the track “Business,” McCann sings “I’ve had a rough night / let’s get drunk in your bedroom / and have a smoke in your window … Babe, it’s been enough night / narcissistic but fuck it I’m calling / I need to know you’re alright,” over grimy power chords and a high, popping bass line, while “Hourglass” ends in a sardonic whine of “I wanna carry all of your children / and I wanna call them stupid shit.”
Perhaps the best track on the album “Fallout,” focuses on the singer’s experiences with an unhappy relationship they are unable to end, expounding on feelings of discontent and alienation.
Catfish and the Bottleman’s lyrics tread the fine line between teenage self-destruction and early 20s apathy perfectly in addition to delivering an incredibly relatable and palpably intense listening experience.
There is not a single song here that does not hold up to a repeat listening. Every track packs the knockout combo of memorable, accessible lyrics and energetic, addictive instrumentals.
While “The Balcony” is an outstanding collection of songs, its great flaw as an album is a lack of progression in the latter half. The sound of the album is fairly consistent and while individually the songs are fantastic, by the end of the album this similarity in style does not lend itself well to being heard from start to finish.
Despite this minor criticism, this album is a fantastic release from a relatively unknown band that could very well put them on the map.
RECOMMENDED: Catfish and the Bottlemen’s debut album is high-intensity with a refreshing classic-rock feel. Fans of bands like the Arctic Monkeys and Oasis will love the familiar sound.