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Rock: Still Not Dead (A Review of the New Catfish and the Bottlemen Album)

Posted by January 6th, 2015 No Comments »

Catfish and the Bottlemen –  The Balcony
By Greg Lehman

Rock has never been “dead.” It just keeps getting pieced and parceled out by marketing departments in small windowless offices to better identify how to sell music.

The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Aerosmith are “Classic Rock”; Weezer, Muse and R.E.M. are considered “Alternative Rock”; Modest Mouse, The Strokes and The White Stripes are called “Indie Rock”; and The Black Keys, The Libertines, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Arctic Monkeys get labelled “Garage Rock.”

Well Mr. Corporate Marketing Guy, you are about to go back to the writing board, because Catfish and the Bottlemen are a rock band that doesn’t fit perfectly in to any of these pseudo-genres. In fact, they just seem like a good old fashioned “rock” band….a rock band featuring young men who started touring around in a crappy van after they got kicked out of school, who pull juvenile D.I.Y. stunts and who perform like their asses are on fire.

The lads hail from all over the UK, but formed in Llandudno, Wales in 2010 by Aussie born lead singer Van McCann, guitarist Bill Bibby and bassist Benji Blakeway (and later adding the thunderous Bob Hall on drums). In 2011 during another D.I.Y. stunt, the band played the parking lot prior to a sold-out Kasabian performance while their friends handed out free copies of their demo. This stunt caught the attention of Ben Lovett’s (Mumford and Sons) label, Communion Records, which signed on to release a handful of the band’s singles in 2013.

Just three years later and they’ve released their full-length debut album The Balcony (#10 on the UK Charts) and picked up a BBC Introducing Award at the BBC Music Awards. Not bad for a bunch of foul-mouthed lads.

The Balcony, which will be released Jan 6 in the U.S., marks a triumphant shift away from music industry mainstream radio friendly rock back to a more dangerous time where songs about sex, drugs and rock and roll ruled the airwaves laden with f-bombs, loud guitars, raspy vocals and drums that pound out the back of your head. Simply stating “this is one hell of a first album” doesn’t provide the adequate magnitude by which this debut kicks ass. It kicks the ass of the ass that is kicking ass.

Songs like “Homesick” sound a bit like Blur (“Song 2″) and Sunny Day Real Estate with some Johnny Marr (The Smiths) style guitar riffs; “Kathleen” takes on The Strokes and The Stones; “Cocoon” takes a spin at U2 and cements the fact that Catfish doesn’t really censor themselves. Check out this chorus… “Fuck it if they talk, fuck it if they try to get to us. I’d rather go blind than let you down.” So I guess we won’t be hearing “Cocoon” on the radio in the U.S. anytime soon.

Like every good rock band, Catfish and The Bottlemen are really about rowdy, randy, full-on, turn-up-the-volume songs. There isn’t a shit track on this album, but the highlights are “Rango,” “Fallout” and “Kathleen.” – (8/10)

Catfish and the Bottlemen play The Late Show With David Letterman on January 7. Their first U.S headlining tour brings them to Barboza in Seattle on February 12 and Portland’s Mississippi Studios the next night. 

Related coverage: 

  • Read Red’s 2012 Q&A with Catfish and the Bottlemen 

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