Catfish and the Bottlemen

Hailing from Llandudno, Wales, up-and-coming alternative rock outfit Catfish and the Bottlemen is blazing a fiery rock-and-roll trail that is headed directly for football-stadium stardom, (despite the unique band name).  With a sound like Foo Fighters-meets-The Strokes plus a little bit of their own originality, this band’s 2014 debut The Balcony is hands down my favorite album of the past year and their live show (I’ve seen them 4 times) is unlike any other. Led by Van McCann and backed by Johnny Bond, Benji Blakeway, and Bob Hall, CATB is the band that modern rock has been anxiously anticipating since the decline of 80s glam rock, reviving strong guitar riffs and baselines that your heart can follow. 

Catfish and the Bottlemen spent 2015 as the undercard to many popular music festivals around the world, including Chicago’s own Lollapalooza, after which they promptly flew to L.A. to start recording their sophomore LP. The band also just played an intense, sold-out show at the House of Blues here in Chicago. CATB’s recent singles Cocoon and Kathleen has been receiving radio play from stations all around the country, allowing the band to tour the US and also perform on various late night talk shows such as Conan and David Letterman. Listen to the single Kathleen below and read a mini-review of The Balcony under the cut.

The Balcony album art

Beginning with the short-but-strong Homesick, The Balcony immediately sets the stage for what kind of album CATB have in store: an indie sound with rock n’ roll bridges and lyrics that could bring even Morrissey to tears. The next five songs follow in similar fashion, with raucous riffs and angsty lyrics that make this record seem like the product of industry veterans rather than early-20s newcomers. The album’s headfirst dive towards total, beautiful chaos is then interrupted by the acoustic Hourglass, which tells the tale of lost love that we all know so well. As a ballad, this song is simple yet powerful, with the lyrics hinting at an angry author who is craving attention and love from an ex-lover: “and I’m so impatient when you’re not mine | I just want to catch up on all the lost times.”

The record then follows the fast pace it set earlier, with four more potential hits, eventually ending with the tragically gorgeous Tyrants. This was the first song that Van, lead singer of CATB, ever wrote, supposedly penned at around the age of 14. Though this song deals with substance abuse, and other topics that no 14 year old should be dealing with, it is composed in such a way that you can feel the tension building as you listen, as each instrument comes in, complimenting the one before it. A perfect end to an incredible album, this song is also the band’s closer for every show that they have ever played, and will ever play, according to them.

As a record, The Balcony is incredible; as a debut record, it’s completely astounding. With a developed sound that is contrasted by naive and sincere lyrics, this album listens smoothly and truly leaves an impact on the listener. 

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