Catfish & The Bottlemen - The Balcony

by Emma Richmond

After a showering of their singles found a way onto the radio throughout 2013, the Welsh quartet’s first album has finally graced the British music scene, causing quite a stir in the process. Catfish & The Bottlemen began as a generic cover band, but their discontent drove them to get out onto the streets to sell their original music, setting up unofficial gigs in car parks whilst their friends handed out free CDs. However, after a tough few years the band eventually got the break they were looking for; playing more than 50 festival stages, releasing their new album, touring both Europe and America, and having Zane Lowe champion them in the process, all happened within the space of two years.

The Balcony starts with Homesick; a minimalistic tune of single guitar and the careful tap of a snare drum edge slowly crescendos into a more realistic love song than we usually hear. This realism is at the heart of the entire album, whether it be about the pangs of love or the feeling of wanderlust, stemming from the band’s inevitable small-town boredom. Lyrics such as “She hates her work but love to flirt / Shame, she don’t work with me,” prove that Catfish & The Bottlemen are not a band that strive for subtlety, and they let us see this from the outset.

Frontman and lyricist, Van McCann, does make the listener aware that he’s all about the lyrics, writing lines such as “I’m craving your call like a soldier’s wife,” (from the almost acoustic Hourglass), which just demands to be heard. Therefore, it’s a shame when his voice is somewhat drowned out in choruses by the instrumentals, causing a protuberance of sound rather than the sophisticated layers that the verses provide. This also causes many of the tracks to become same-y. However, this does not stop the album from having a vitality that is both easy to listen to and to engage with.

The more you listen to this album, the harder it is to understand how The Balcony is the band’s debut. Catfish & The Bottlemen are a band that play as if they have a few albums’ worth of experience under their belts. Ignoring all criticisms, this is a record that is both interesting and thoughtful, yet it also has powerhouse guitars to support it. The angsty overtones resurrect the once dead genre of indie rock, filling it with a gusto that throws back to the days of The Libertines and Kaiser Chiefs, yet all with a fresh approach to the genre. The major disappointment, however, is that there are only three previously unreleased tracks on this album, and the fans, no doubt, wanted more than this. However, McCann has stated that he’s been writing like crazy, so I’m sure we’ll (hopefully) see and hear much more from Catfish & The Bottlemen both on stage, and on the radio.