I’ve written about Catfish and the Bottlemen before, it was about the single 7 from their upcoming album The Ride, I’d presumed if the single was any kind of indicator the ride could be the album that made Catfish a force to be reckoned with in terms of guitar music. I described front man Van McCan as being “teetering on the edge of being a bon-a-fide rock star”.
And now, having had a few days a few lazy moments and a tube ride to absorb the ride, I find Catfish still very much teetering.
Before going into the usual “This song sounds like…” “I like this song..” I’d like to clarify that I do regard Catfish as a good band, purely because I think that there’s something magical about a pure, passionate and vital rock album, which The Balcony was to me. In fact it’s an album I hold somewhat of an affection for, so The Ride could’ve just been one of those special albums. Those albums that feel definitive and exciting at the same time. So having heard it and lived with it for a while, the feeling of disappointment is more than reasonable I feel.
The singles released are indeed strong: soundcheck’s swagger and confidence is undeniable, the epic 7 feels more Springsteen like and more stadium bashing that ever and Twice is (as much as it pains me to say this) a proper rock n’ roll strut. But these are only three of 11, and somewhere in these 11 The Ride very much de-rails.
Track by track The Ride is perfectly fine: something like the slightly average Postpone, or the acoustic pseudo-ballad Heathrow would just stand out as a slightly duff track on an album of better overall quality. But assembled with even slightly better tracks (which I’m told have great impact live) the Ride just lacks the energy that makes The Balcony such a stand out debut.
The songs all seem to ring a similar tone, Whereas the themes explored on 7 at first felt like Catfish heading away from the small town frustration of The Balcony but across the entire album it means that although admittedly it’s thematically tight it lacks the depth to make such a narrow focus work.
Speaking of tone, whereas David Sardy’s layers of buzzing guitars have left many fans feeling the songs have been over-done, they do bring some sort of change to Catfish’s sound which was probably needed to avoid stagnating.
In all , to quote my friend Angel “it is lacking the spark of The Balcony”, and that is very true. There’s a dynamism to a great rock record, and The Ride just lacks this certain charisma that could make it fantastic. It’s more frustrating that anything because anyone whose seen Catfish preform know how compelling they can be, but I guess this has been lost somewhere along the ride.
(Thank you so much to Angel, allot of this is informed by the ideas she got from her more in-depth listen)
Written by Harry James Harvey.