Album Review: The Ride – Catfish And The Bottlemen

In the almost two years since their debut album The Balcony was released, Catfish and the Bottlemen have won themselves a Breakthrough Brit Award, played festivals all over the world and sold out a number of headline tours. Not band for a few lads from Lluandidno (and a Geordie).

In the lead up to festival season, and on the brink of super-stardom, the Welsh quartet have finally dropped their sophomore album, The Ride. Currently sitting on the top of the UK album charts, there’s no doubt that this is Catfish and the Bottlemen’s year.

“I’d beg you but you know I’m never home”, front-man Van McCann declares on album opener ‘7′. “And I’d love you but I need another year alone.” Where ‘The Balcony’ delved into typical feelings of youth and young love, The Ride exists in how those things are changed by a life spent on a tour bus.

When it comes to Catfish and the Bottlemen, there are no smoke and mirrors. Straightforward every-man lyrics, heavy guitar riffs and a catchy chorus. McCann has previous said of their music, “I feel like everybody started thinking too outside the box trying to be arty and different. We wanted to stay inside the box.”

Highlights include ‘Twice’, a darker self-aware tune about “being lazy”; ‘Anything’ a heart-felt song about compromising (with one of the best guitar solos on the album); and ‘Red’, a track that focuses on jealousy towards a new relationship.

For the more acoustic inclined, there are two tracks to fill your needs. Glasgow and Heathrow are intimate and full of emotion, as McCann’s sings softly over an acoustic guitar. Not to fret though, there is an electric guitar solo on every other song. Previously describing the album as “bigger” and “louder” than the last, Catfish have recruited legendary producer David Sardy to create just that.

‘Oxygen’ a song a little past halfway, is the most out of place. Starting off in typical Catfish and the Bottlemen fashion, once it hits the chorus you can’t help but wonder what is exactly going on. Fluffier and lighter than what we have come to expect of the Welsh natives, it is also potentially the catchiest. It is refreshingly adventurous, but an odd addition to the album all the same.

The Ride closes with ‘Outside’, a massive ‘festival headliner’ sort of tune. Coming in at a little over 5 minutes and curiously missing an ending (it cuts right in the middle of an instrumental), it contains one of Van McCann’s favourite lines. “There’s a line in it which sounds like Elton John… but heavier. Like Elton John if he’d lost his shit.”

Though both musically and lyrically similar to their debut album, The Ride is an obvious progression. With an arena tour on the horizon and McCann’s eye set firmly on stadiums, Catfish and the Bottlemen are well aware that they need to create bigger songs to fill these spaces. While it might be a bit more polished than The Balcony, and not so ‘gritty underground club’, it’s an important development.

Catfish and the Bottlemen are a live band and it is in their live shows that they showcase what truly makes them great. With another album of songs under their belt, just itching to be played live, its only going to get bigger and better.

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