Album Review: Catfish and the Bottlemen, 'The Balcony'


catfish and the bottlemen the balcony
Catfish and the Bottlemen, 'The Balcony' (© 2014 Island Records.)

Last June, a young Welsh rock band warmed up the stage for the Communion Club night at the Varsity Theater. Carrying the endorsement of BBC DJs like Zane Low and Steve Lamacq, Catfish and the Bottlemen greeted about 20 show-goers with the same enthusiasm as most bands have when greeting a packed house. For frontman Van McCann, the short tour through the U.S. was just a warm-up to their summer festival tour in the UK and Europe.

With the release of their debut album, The Balcony, Catfish and the Bottlemen are poised to be one of the best new rock bands of 2015; however, they aren't new to fans who watched their ascent across the pond. In 2014, the band laid the foundation for their upcoming U.S. tour: Breaking into the charts in the U.K. and earning fans through live performance was the road map to gaining the attention in America.

That path started with getting signed to Ben Lovett's (of Mumford and Sons) label, Communion Records. Appropriately titled Kathleen and the Other Three, Catfish and the Bottlemen's debut EP is modern rock with the subtle hooks reminiscent of forgotten English bands The Music and Serafin. The lead single, "Kathleen," didn't go unnoticed, with many tastemakers and critics championing the introductory track for a band with a name you don't forget.

The Balcony reveals the same confidence heard the band's live performances. In the era of "pop-ternative", Catfish and the Bottlemen are a quintessential guitar-driven, modern-rock band. On first listen, the songwriting and arrangements of songs like "Cocoon" and "Rango" come easy. Spend more time with the songs and the same sonic complexity of early Radiohead emerges. Catfish and the Bottlemen make modern rock exciting again, because they aren't chasing the same pop hooks as their peers.

The Balcony is out now on Island Records.

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