15 Sep 2014

Catfish and the Bottlemen / The Balcony (album review)

Here at Vapour Trail our opinions clash regularly, and usually one of the bands in the middle of it all is Catfish and the Bottlemen. I had nothing against them, and still think they're a good band although much better live, and both times I have seen them I have been incredibly impressed. However, as I am reminded by some of the vile things they have said and done in the past, my opinion began to change. Alas, after the massive hype around their debut album, I thought hey, I will give it a go and see what it's like, I still enjoy their music. When you hype an album that much, and publicise it as much as they have, it's pretty disappointing to find out that it's just all their singles that have already been released, plus four other songs. That's literally it. I'm not denying for a second that those previously singles aren't good, of course they are, but it just seems pretty lame. Anyway, enough of my opinions (you can get more of how we feel about the 'lids' in the article Calum wrote here) and on with our album review.

The album actually opens with one of my favourite songs by CATB, Homesick. With a slow start and suddenly rockier chorus, it's the perfect opener for this album. "I'm only looking out for you/she said it's obvious that's a lie" is growled over a bass/guitar/drums combo which becomes all to familiar when you get further into the album, but alas, on its own, it's a very good song and definitely better live. Following this comes the song Kathleen which when released at the start of 2014, was received greatly. Once again, no denying it's not a good song, but that's all it is, good. Your typical indie song with a pop-rock twist I guess? First time I heard it I couldn't tell it apart from any other indie bands around today. Nothing special, but still not a bad song. Something about the order of this album already feels wrong and I don't know if it's the lumping together of nearly all their singles in a row that makes it feel like that but it just doesn't really flow. Following Kathleen comes the newest single Cocoon. Now this is probably my second favourite track off the album. It demonstrates the rockier side to CATB where they seem to excel, and with a catchy bridge and 'relatable' lyrics, it's definitely one of their better songs. The lyrics although 'relatable' are pretty mediocre, ("fuck it if they talk/fuck it if they try and get to us" is the chorus, bit lame if you ask me?) However, it does have a pretty cool bridge and a great guitar break in the middle, and when performed live, the song gets 10x better. 

Continuing on with the rollercoaster of mediocracy, the single prior to Cocoon follows, Fallout. It's getting difficult to write about this without being repetitive, but thats exactly what the album is. It's the same chords, the same lyrical topics, the same rhythms, for Gods sake the drummer is Almost As Lame As Meg White. (except the CATB's drummer can actually play) It's just all very samey, and your typical indie-pop music. But once again, 10x better live. Why is that? You can see how passionate these guys are about their wonderfully average music and that automatically makes it so much more fun. The run of singles ends here with third single Pacifier. It's certainly not a bad song, and one of their most loved tracks amongst fans, and I can see why. Channelling the rocky style which I prefer, this one always spawns massive crowd involvement and always gets everyone going. Van Mc Cann whines "But baaabe" over the chords and drums that you see in nearly every song, but something about this one sounds different and fresher. One of their strongest tracks definitely. 

Three out of the four new songs Hourglass, Business and 26 are just what you would expect. AVERAGE. ALBUM. FILLERS. People are raving about Hourglass and god knows why. It just proves that Van Mc Cann can sing and write a pretty decent and soppy love song. Nobody has ever done that before have they! Original! Business is a little creepy and a little stalkery, but one of the better new songs. Wouldn't mind this being a single if they hadn't released over 60% of their album already. 26 is their attempt at a rock song and let me tell you, it's so much better when they don't try to be rocky and just write their songs in a style they like. Please don't get me wrong, I have nothing against this band except on terms of misogyny and pervy-ness, but for a band who are so passionate about what they do, it just all seems so rushed and like they weren't ready to put out a debut just yet. It's disappointing really because their live sets are always so much fun. Anyway, I digress. The almost-the-best song off the album comes next. Rango. What a tune. Dancey, rocky, catchy. Nothing more needs to be said. It's just a bloody good pop song and I don't want to spoil it by writing things about it because I read too much into it. 

Next comes the best song CATB ever created. Sidewinder. Definition of 'WHAT A BANGER OF A TRACK.' It shows off everything that a song should, musical talents? check. Clever, mostly unoffensive lyrics? check. It's easily the greatest song they have ever written and including it on their album was by far the best decision. It's such a good song that it earned them an extra point when I was scoring the album out of 20. Final track is Tyrants. The song they end nearly all their live sets with, and the song to end their debut. It's my favourite track out of the few new ones they actually released, and it's a great ending to the live sets. However, it sounds as if they have written it and thought "Hey, this is OK for an album/set opener, lets use it for that always." Closes the album in a strong way, and I do like the ending a lot, but something about it just seems rushed and like it's just there. Nonetheless, it's up there with my favourite CATB tracks and I like it a lot. 

Overall, this album is painfully mediocre, and quite frankly disappointing. I had incredibly high hopes for this band because they really have so much potential and talent and the passion is there, but it doesn't come across on record. I would still recommend going to see them live, as that is where they excel, but for now, this album will have to do. Sad isn't it. 

A good solid 11/20 from me. 

(written by Poppy Marriott)