The Ride is not quite at Catfish and the Bottlemen's final sound destination, but is still a stellar second outing for them.
It’s hard not to be impressed by the way Catfish and the Bottlemen have rocketed from obscurity to obsession. They aren’t your typical band by any means – if anything, they would seem far more in place back at the turn of the millennium, entertaining our parents alongside the likes of Oasis and Kasabian. Indeed, my dad looked up when they came on at BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend just to mutter “they’re good,” but don’t let that put you off. They are a glorious throwback to a golden age of indie pop/rock and a retaliation to the gradual disappearance of the good old British guitar band.
As usual, I was late to the party. It feels like I’d only just discovered their 2014 debut The Balcony when we were gifted with The Ride, which is indeed a maturation on their last work, a phenomenon often found in second albums, but it is perhaps not quite yet there in finding the band’s high point.
The album’s lead, both in promotional circles and in quality, is most definitely ‘Soundcheck,’ which is so close to to the likes of ‘Kathleen’ and ‘Cocoon’ of The Balcony that it may well feel more in place there. The signature drum beat is once again blended to perfection with the gritty yet impressive vocals of Van McCann, the band’s lead singer. The twist around the song’s bridge is possibly my favourite minute of music on the entire album, with soaring guitar sounds breaking into big drums and McCann raising the vocals up a notch in response, creating a blissfully ecstatic high.
The rest of The Ride is a little bumpy in its quest to find a new direction. It is quieter and more understated than The Balcony, preferring smaller guitar riffs and slow drumming than explosions of sound. Recent single ‘Glasgow’ is a quiet ballad led by McCann without even a hint of those iconic drumbeats and again feeling reminiscent of Oasis’ quieter singles. However, it all too quickly explodes in ‘Oxygen,’ the next track, which is big and shouty in comparison. Though the chorus is catchy through ironic howls of, “Oxygen is overrated,” it’s not impressive enough to stick with you as anything too memorable. ‘Postpone’ is similar and does step it up a bit, as the chorus is great but the rest of the song is at best forgettable.
To not to end on a negative note, ‘7’ is perhaps Catfish’s best attempt at finding a balance between new and old, loud and quiet. The chorus sinks low enough, using repetitive drum beats to catch the listener’s ear, before rising sky high again with that stellar guitar. McCann’s vocals are once again the highlight, and this young musician has a Gallagher brother feel about him. I’m sure he’s going to be a big name in the future of music.
Though this album is not perfect, it would be criminal for Catfish and the Bottlemen to peak this early. They are brimming with potential, and have the entire next generation fans of a genre, once crowded by the likes of Oasis, hanging off every word exhaled from McCann’s brilliant mouth.
The Ride is out now via Capitol.