Review: Catfish and the Bottlemen – “The Balcony”

Catfish and the Bottlemen, my newest obsession and new indie band phenomena from the lovely UK. I say phenomena because, in a way, they were going under radar with their music not getting much of radio time. But, suddenly, it all exploded, with Kathleen making their big break.

Their debut album The Balcony”, came out in September 2014 in the UK, and then in January 2015, it was released in the US. They were starting to make a name for themselves, making appearances at late talk shows, winning the British Breakthrough Act award at the Brits, and doing more festivals, their song being on FIFA … well let’s just say they are on the stairway to global stardom.

And by doing all that, plus being on tour, their fan base was constantly and rapidly expanding.

Four men in their twenties who come from North Wales, play indie pop rock which you have probably heard a lot of times, if you like Oasis and The Strokes, or even Kings of Leon and Arctic Monkeys, then you will absolutely adore this band who take a few bits and pieces from these established rock stars and create something completely new and fresh for today’s standards of rock music yet, it feels so old-school and familiar.

CATB at the Brits 2016

That been said, one can expect a lot of rock and roll snarling from the frontman Van McCann, mind-blowing guitar riffs and vocal dominance in song performance, but still all carefully managed and made into a good and pleasant listen.  Now, bear in mind that this whole album is nothing extremely original, they didn’t invent nothing new, but on the other side, it is very well played, produced and tuned up. You kind of get that feeling you are listening to a well-established, been-in-the-music-game-for-two-decades type of band and not a band who just started their journey and released their debut.

The first time I ever heard of them was in the winter of 2015 when I accidently came across their video for Cathleen on YouTube. And I remember wondering if the song is about drugs, why does the lead singer have a Liam Gallagher type of hair, is he trying to copy his look and why on earth is this video making me nervous and dizzy (due to color effects not being synced with the song, if that makes any sense?). Any who, I liked the song itself so I checked out a couple of others and that was kind of it. Later, in March of this year, I went to a record shop and the minute I walked in, there it was, the only copy of The Balcony just begging me to buy it. So, I did, and well, my love for it is still going strong. That was the best purchase of that day. Hell, of that whole month! And the rest in history. Although, I am still waiting for a proper European tour because touring only the UK doesn’t count as a big European tour.

Nonetheless, I got home and put the CD in my laptop, got my headphones on and turned it up as I assumed the first song would be a mellow, soft ballad with maybe some distinct guitar riffs, as the title was Homesick. Well boy, was I wrong!

Tracklist and Front Cover

The very first tune, Homesick, on the 11 track debut got me completely surprised and yet happy, as my mind was basically all over the place. Starting with ear pleasant guitar riffs alongside Van’s vocals, the song just rips into this wild, raw energy in the chorus accompanied with heavy drums and heavenly bass from Benji. If you close your eyes, you can imagine the crowd jumping their asses off… or is that just me? My favorite line though is : “See I am not the type to call you up drunk, but I’ve got some lies to tell.”

And the album just progresses further into more fist pumping tunes, with the well-known Kathleen keeping up the same tempo with powerful vocals, and at times, some proper rock and roll snarling.

All songs on the album are fast-paced, short, into-your-face honest, with infectious energy and hooks. They do not give you time to even think more deeply about the lyrics, nor do they bore you. And all that energy is put into 30-something minutes.

Full-blooded energy continues throughout, with Cocoon, Fallout and Pacifier all having an open and explosive drums, addictive hooks and snarling vocals.

The only time the album takes a breather is half way through it, during Hourglass, which is a guitar and vocals-only type of song that only gets better with repeated play.

And then, the album just picks up where it left off, with even more loud and honest, no beat around the bush, on point, in your face type of lyrics. Business, 26, Rango, Sidewinder and Tyrants completely embody that.

Now, if I may say, Tyrants is by far my favorite song on the album, if even of the year. Why? Its raging melody culminates in the very end and then it picks up again, making your head explode and leaves your ears satisfied.

It’s just melody that seeps into your brain, flawless guitar with sudden bursts of it, and tempo that just takes you to a thrill ride. Oh, and the way that it’s just roughly cut at the end, making you doubt whether the song is really over, is absolutely brilliant and it will make you hit that repeat button.

It is such a romp of an album, from start to finish, that I always come back to. No metaphors, no contrasts, it is just that, a great album with pure and honest lyrics. The kind you listen to, absorb, learn, make them a part of you, and then, if you are among the lucky ones, sing them back to the person who lived them first.

And you will feel an instant connection.

The music will transcend the speakers and headphones and it will become a part of you.

And if you need one more reason on why to buy and listen to the album, well, buy it so Van can finally buy his mum a Jacuzzi.


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