From the get-go, Catfish and the Bottlemen have always been a people’s, rather than a critics’ favourite. NME themselves still seem as yet undecided whether the band are this generations Arctic Monkeys, or a mediocre and unexciting copy of thousands of bands before them. Whatever the mainstream media think of their credibility, it is undoubted that ‘The Balcony’; their hugely successful debut, struck a chord with the youth of the world, as it managed to sell 250,000 copies worldwide, despite poor ratings (I don’t think the band care bout the 4/10 ‘dated and ham-fisted’ review NME gave them now, do you?). ‘The Ride’ is possibly the most anticipated follow-up in recent history, as Catfish and the Bottlemen have become one of the most popular indie acts around on the back of just a single album. Will it be the album that conquers the critics and cements popularity among the people? Let’s find out.
First impressions don’t look too good for the band. ‘The Ride’ is another black and white covered album, one word titles are back and not only that, one track is named a number and another is a girls name(‘7’ and ‘Emily’; reminiscent of ’26’ and ‘Kathleen’). These similarities to ‘The Balcony’, are simply too strong to overlook, and have already led to many amusing parodies to be created. It would seem that Catfish and the Bottlemen have no wishes to change their image, and instead seek a development of it, but we’ll have to look deeper to determine whether this gamble has paid off.
Over the past months, many singles from the album have been released, with mixed reception. For many, they proved to increase the hype for the upcoming album, whereas for others, who were probably the band’s doubters anyway, they showed too little a change from previous works. Personally, I was sat on the fence, unsure whether I liked the new music or not, and unsure whether the band could possibly maintain their meteoric rise. But now with the album’s full release, it has become clear that these tracks are possibly the highlights of the work as a whole. ‘Twice’ is a favourite for me, although I suspect, as was the case with the last album, that the band’s new music will be better live, especially offerings such as ‘7’ and ‘Red’. Within the music itself, some old features are present too; the abrupt ending to ‘Outside’ for instance (remember ‘Tyrants’?), but I feel they have not quite been executed with the same precision and flair as we saw before. If released as the band’s debut, I suspect that ‘The Ride’ would have been just as successful as ‘The Balcony’ proved to be. While this proves the band can consistently produce good music, this could also be the problem. ‘The Ride’ is as good as ‘The Balcony’ but, in my opinion, little new is brought to the table.
‘The Ride’ is the obvious continuation of Catfish and the Bottlemen’s sound and image, and will undoubtedly not lose any of the undying support they have previously garnered from their fiercely loyal fan base. However, it is slightly disappointing for me; I feel that we don’t get quite enough from the album to warrant the same kind of triumph seen with ‘The Balcony’, although I do expect to see sales figures exceeding the previous album’s success in this area. Catfish and the Bottlemen are an amazing band, and do not fail to excite and captivate their audience in a way many others fail to do, however, I feel they need to attack different directions in a less conservative, and more experimental manner in order to become definitively brilliant.