Review: Catfish and the Bottlemen – “The Ride”

“The Ride” is here! And no I am not going anywhere, but rather Catfish and the Bottlemen’s new album is here. Out on May 27th, the sophomore album features 11 brand new songs which are all rock and roll bouncy stadium songs, to which all ages can sing along.

For their old fans it was a long time waiting, since 2014 and their debut, but for us new admirers, it was not that long. Heck, I only waited a couple of months to be honest, since I am still replaying the awesome debut.

The ambitious Welsh men have already put themselves on a music map with tunes like Cocoon and radio popular Cathleen, toured the UK and US over the course of two years, performed on various well-known local and international festivals, and therefore built a reputation of a fantastic live performance band, a must see during the coming summer.

Not once did they hide their ambition to one day headline big festivals, sell out venues and fill out stadiums over the world. So, The Ride is, in a way, a huge step towards that.

But, that does not mean that their sophomore is an album that will shoot them into the music stratosphere, turned them into the greatest band of the world. No, surely not. Does it have its obvious flaw? Yes, of course it does but The Ride is made with one specific thought and goal in mind: to sound amazing live.

And that fact is more than clear right in the beginning, with song named “7”, where the production behind it is so great, made for stadiums, that you can almost imagine the crowd singing the words: “I don’t think through things I never get time, cause I don’t think things through“.

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The Ride Front Cover

Throughout the album, the difference in production style and quality is obvious. Whereas their debut was produced by Jim Abbiss (Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, Adele), this time around, for their sophomore, they have chosen Dave Sardy who worked with some of the well-established names in the industry (and Bottlemen’s idols) like Oasis on “Don’t Believe The Truth“ and  “Dig Out Your Soul“. Of course, he later worked with Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds.

Sardy’s work with Oasis and Van’s love for them is especially noticeable in Oxygen, which combines the sound from “Dig Out Your Soul” with a simple chorus we are used to from their previous albums. But, the little guitar solo toward the end of song gives it a bit of excitement and diversity.

In his lyric writing, Van rarely steps out of the subject matter of love and lack of time. The latter being represented so much that it can be seen as repetitive at times. I mean, how much time does he need and does he really want it?

The only time he briefly ventures out is in amazing “Twice” (my personal favorite) in which he now ponders, in his free time, about all the stupid things he has said and done in the past.

Their single “Soundcheck” has been accompanied by not one but two videos. One is from the studio, which serves as a behind the scenes and a sneak peek into a day of recording the album. The other one is an official video made as a live performance, as was the case with their previous videos. And, they are both filmed in black and white. The track is your standard bouncy, guitar and drum Bottlemen song with honest lyrics (“I raced through soundcheck just to meet you on your fag break“). What makes this song amazing is the change in tempo near the end when your ears just explode with an outstanding guitar solo. Geez, that solo makes the song!  It gets me right in my indie loving heart, every single time.

Speaking of mind blowing solos, “Anything” is also worth a mention. Why? Because Bondy has a solo that would impress every single festival attendee, it is made for big festivals and arenas.

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Now, the main issue with this album is that it tries too hard. It’s trying hard to sound big, like it’s only made for stadiums.

The whole album resembles the debut: both albums have 11 tracks and both are cut with ballads halfway through. And those songs in the middle, that break in monotony of sing along choruses are Glasgow” and Heathrow” on sophomore, and Hourglass” on debut.

And just like the debut, the last track is abruptly cut to the end as an element of surprise, I guess, but I think we all kind of knew it was there.

But, resembling the debut did not stop Catfish nor the album to climb-up the charts, and it is no surprise since it is masterfully produced. But, are they playing it safe with their sound? In my opinion, yes. But, since Van stated that he has already written around 100 of songs, I think there is still time for improvement and making those rock and roll, indie hits that would fill out stadiums.

So, let’s wait and see what the album number three will have for us in store.

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