Sunday, 14 September 2014

Flynndie Reviews #50: Catfish and the Bottlemen - The Balcony

Written 14th September 2014
Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Balcony

The Band: Van McCann (vocals/guitar), Billy Blakeway (guitar/vocals), Benji Bibby (bass/vocals) Rob Hall aka Dr. Bob (Drums)

This week see the release of Catfish and the Bottlemen’s much anticipated debut album ‘The Balcony’.  Originally hailing from Llandudno, Wales these four young upstarts are hell-bent on making a big impact on the Indie-Rock scene and have been garnering some serious attention and airplay from the likes of X-FM, Zane Lowe and Steve Lamacq, thus gaining the band a lively and intense fan-base.  I’ve been closely keep an eye on these lads for about three-years now upon hearing early single ‘Broken Army’ (previously reviewed in Flynndie Reviews #25) and listening to their debut EP ‘The Beautiful Decay EP’ a ridiculously obscene amount of times upon its release.  Having been lucky enough to catch the band live on a number of occasions I can confirm that Catfish and the Bottlemen seriously deliver a full-on rock ‘n’ roll assault live and on a number of times I have walked out of their gigs overhearing people saying “Wow that band were just fucking amazing!”  So with a lot of anticipation and building hype how does ‘The Balcony’ shape up then?

The Balcony:

1. Homesick
2. Kathleen
3. Cocoon
4. Fallout
5. Pacifier
6. Hourglass
7. Business
8. 26
9. Rango
10. Sidewider
11. Tyrants

Opening track and previous single ‘Homesick’ starts with a stripped-down guitar riff from front-man Van and lines “I got mislead, mistook, discard/Anything that I said/See I’m not the type to call you up drunk/But I got some lies to tell” and an almost calypso drum-rhythm from Dr. Bob before it gets into full-swing after with a great chorus “I said “I’m only looking out for you”/She said “it’s obvious that’s a lie”/I only ever put out for you/You know it’s obvious you don’t try” which gets the record off to a great start.  However, if ‘Homesick’ is a great opener then it’s second track and previous single ‘Kathleen’ that starts showing the full potential of Catfish and the Bottlemen “You’re Simpatico/And of all the lifts home/And all the mixed feelings/You’re cuts above/And you don’t own worries/Or a chest full of heartache” as the band continue their tight sound with some nice guitar licks from Billy and perfectly timed bass from Benji giving this track a delightful rhythm and groove to it while featuring an infectious chorus as Van belts out “I gotta give it to you/You give me problems!/When you’re not in the mood”.  As Indie-Rock tracks go this is nigh-on fucking perfection.  ‘Cocoon’ continues the smooth groove on the album so far building with rocky drumming and bass, before effortlessly coasting along with crisp, clear vocals again from Van “I remember when we swapped names/And I thought maybe/You’d stay and try and outdrink me/Your friends all hated it” followed by “Fuck it if they talk/Fuck it if they try and get to us”.  This is a smooth track, with particularly great guitars, drums and bass over the bridge before the chorus.

Fourth track ‘Fallout’ features sharp guitar strums and accompanying bass notes and percussion, the band still continue a nice smooth sound here with an edgy chorus “And we just always seem to just fallout/When I’m most in need of it/You just seem to call out/When I’m up for leaving it” you can tell the band really believe what they’re into here and enjoying themselves on this track.  Much like second track ‘Kathleen’, ‘Pacifier’ captures the core-sound of Catfish and the Bottlemen here with another excellent Indie-Pop Rock track “Oh but babe/You know I tried and failed/But you just don’t know how it feels/To lose something/You never have and never will” before the track rocks out in its final third with Van repeating the track-title “I’m her pacifier/I’m her pacifier”.  It’s another very instant and incredibly catchy tune yet sounds pulled off with effortless ease here by the band.  ‘Hourglass’ showcases a lesser seen side of the band as Van picks up acoustic guitar here, with a driving, backing bass rhythm here from Benji, it’s a sweet and tender track midway through the record and builds up steady layers with gentle backing vocals, light-drums and even charming piano notes, a surprising ballad to be found here on the album.

  • Catfish and the Bottlemen previously stormed through a set at London's the 100 Club back in 2013 

Getting back much more up-tempo, ‘Business’ goes back to Catfish’s full-on, ballsy rock.  Another strong track pulsing along with driving bass and percussion “I wanna make you my business/I wanna tolerate drunk you honey/I wanna make you my problem” another very instant track featuring some nice guitar work here and a nice guitar solo midway through, meanwhile ‘26’ was previously an opening live favourite and one which I always thought was a great track that the band opened with and the final recording here further confirms that with a fast accelerating guitar rhythm driving away at it “I’ll come/Based on/Facts like/She’ll be there/Making self-control”.  This is a fast-paced and no-nonsense track.  Previously another early single ‘Rango’ remains upbeat and tight guitar-rock with smooth vocals here from Van a particular highlight “You see Abby she’s got to wait/Until she gets you on your own/She’ll make you make mistakes/And you can offer to take her home” and this track features a really nice guitar solo from Billy in its latter stages and is generally another very likeable track. 

So far ‘The Balcony’ has been some ride and then track 10 ‘Sidewinder’ hits you!  This is full-on, ballsy rock with an amazing opening guitar-riff.  This track previously featured on the band’s ‘Beautiful Decay EP’ but is such a strong track in its own right that it just had to feature on this debut record with some of my favourite lines on the album “Give me some/Assumptions I/Can make of you/Cause you’re getting lazy/You used to frustrate me” and “Whoever/You’re mixing/Your drinks with/Is dying to/Go to town on you”.  This is another seriously solid track before the album closes with another live favourite and another track from their previous debut EP which has been re-recorded here, ‘Tyrants’, which has a raw industrialist hard-rocking vibe about it and a particularly nice closing guitar and rhythm featuring some great closing lines “Tyrants helped build us/Then they won’t/Mind throwing it away”.  It’s another great track to close this debut album with the fiercely rocky instrumental ‘Trippin’’ tagged on to the end of the album nicely much like the band’s live shows.

  • The Bottlemen tear through another dynamic and energetic set at The Borderline

As I said at the start of this review I’ve been closely keeping an eye out for Catfish and the Bottlemen as one to watch and have always been patiently looking forward to this debut album ‘The Balcony’ over the past three years.  As time went on I was a little apprehensive as to the final sound of this album what with high hopes for this band but I have to say these four young lads have delivered a debut album they should be very proud of.  There are many strong tracks on this record with for me personally ‘Cocoon’, ‘Pacifier’ and particularly ‘Sidewinder’ and ‘Kathleen’ being amazing highlights from this bright, young band and I’m going to give ‘The Balcony’ an unprecedented 10 Pacifiers out of 10 as this is a quality debut record.  Every 5 years or so a band comes along which just changes the game and for me Catfish and the Bottlemen are the real fucking deal.  Their music is no-nonsense ballsy rock about being young and in complicated relationships something everyone can relate to but they back them with amazing guitar riffs and rhythms and ‘The Balcony’ doesn’t disappoint.  The band look and sound great and are amazing live probably due to their sheer dedicated commitment to live touring over the past 7 years, so try and catch them in small venues while you can as I can only see this band going all the way on to much bigger things.

Track 1 ‘Homesick’

Track 2 ‘Kathleen’ 

Track 5 ‘Pacifier’

Track 10 ‘Sidewinder’  

Band website:

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