Catfish and the Bottlemen sprung onto the music scene in 2014 with their debut album The Balcony which sold 250,000 records. They are Van McCann (vocals/guitar), Johnny Bond (guitar), Benji Blakeway (bass) and Bob Hall (drums). They lived in Llandudno, North Wales at the time of their inception, though founding member Ryan Evan “Van” McCann) was born in Cheshire having spent some of his childhood in Australia the name coming from his earliest musical memory of an Australia street busker who strung beer bottles on a wire and went by the name Catfish and the Bottleman. Billy Bibby, also a founding member left in 2014 and went onto form his own band Billy Bibby & The Wry Smiles.
This year they won the Brit award for Best British Breakthrough with their own brand of indie pop/rock. Their second album The Ride written by Van McCann and produced by D. Sardy, was recorded mostly in LA and features 11 new songs. The cover artwork for ‘The Ride’ comes from long-term Catfish and the Bottlemen collaborator, New York illustrator Tim Lahan, who also produced the cover art for their debut album The Balcony.
The Ride kicks off with 7, a guitar driven radio-friendly kind of song. This is a favourite on their live set with fans and is catchy. Twice is also likeable with the lyrics “From every hangover my head feels, to every ex I didn’t treat right,” they write about everyday subjects which is always endearing. They bring to mind again the Kooks but with a mix of the Levellers thrown in. Soundcheck, the third song on the album is their current single receiving airplay as we speak. This is a strong song driven by McCann’s smooth vocals and rousing guitars and drums. The song drops down a gear in the middle with some good harmonies and then the song builds back up with layers of guitar and drum once more.
Postpone has more melodic guitar and catchy hooks. I’ve never seen them play live but I can imagine them good fun at a festival and popular (which they are having played several festivals including Reading and Leeds, Strawberry Fields and T in the Park). Oh and did I say I like their wry, engaging lyrics? Glasgow is a mellow, quirky love song played on acoustic guitar. Oxygen has a foot-tapping, dance-hall stomping quality about it with edges of Oasis. I really like this one and can see (and hear) more of those festival crowds singing “Oxygen’s over-rated” with zest over the coming months.
Emily is a strong, driven song whilst Red has dark brooding undertones with the beguiling lyrics “Can he do what I do for you?” Outside finishes off the album which I can see as another single with stirring guitars and passionate vocals. I love the way it stops suddenly as well. You don’t expect it, which is good. With the onset of summer it seems like the perfect time to release this album. Enjoy them, sing-a-long with them.