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Alternative & Indie - Released April 26, 2019 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Some bands change and grow with each record. That's not the case with Catfish and the Bottlemen. Although they chose to work with a new producer for The Balance -- that'd be Jacknife Lee, who previously helmed albums for R.E.M., U2, and the Killers -- they don't expand their horizons, preferring to stick to the hyper-charged British indie they minted with their 2014 debut, The Balcony. Catfish and the Bottlemen remain indebted to U.K. rock from the early 2000s, particularly Arctic Monkeys, and if Van McCann doesn't possess the wit of Alex Turner, there nevertheless are charms to how he and his band adhere to the straight and narrow. Catfish and the Bottlemen can raise a ruckus, and Lee knows how to sharpen this sound so it can draw blood. He also can smooth some of their sharper edges so the more melodic numbers seem like they could fill an arena, a move that may underscore how the group is just slightly old-fashioned -- there just aren't that many rock bands who play on such a large scale in 2019 -- yet there's no denying that this is a tight, frills-free execution of Catfish and the Bottlemen's essence. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
$8.99

Alternative & Indie - Released September 15, 2014 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Readily described as a young garage rock band, Catfish and the Bottlemen bluster into their highly polished debut album The Balcony with many of the traits of a garage rock band primed and ready for the radio. Their relative youth is so hidden behind frontman Van McCann's weathered and assured vocals, that if it wasn't for the (at times) crude lyrics, it would be easy to mistake the band for one slightly wiser beyond their years and with a few more albums under their belt. The Welsh-based outfit's music is easy on the ear, with grand Johnny Marr-inspired guitar hooks that are unapologetically catchy, gritty, and full of swagger in the same vein as indie rock types the Cribs, Feeder, and Mystery Jets. Without the hype and build-up that was afforded to many other British guitar bands of Catfish's ilk -- from the highly successful Arctic Monkeys, the moderately successful the Vaccines, and the quick demise of Viva Brother -- the four-piece tirelessly toured their music by any means necessary, and eventually their familiar, youthful anthems of love, alcohol, and growing up were picked up by Communion/Island Records. With nods across the Atlantic to the Walkmen, the Jim Abiss-produced breakout single "Kathleen" shows McCann at his talismanic best, while the emotional "Fallout" displays the lyrical maturity of which the band are obviously capable, but fall short of at times. However, the raw emotion and directness Catfish embody is likely to resonate closely with their audience, whether it's the story of a relationship with an older woman in "26," or the fizzing chorus to opener "Homesick," they are fearless in their delivery. Beneath their poppier melodies and anthemic choruses underlies the D.I.Y. garage-rock ethic that inspired their quick ascent, and it's this mixture that places them firmly between the pop charts and dingy rock club basements. ~ Scott Kerr
$10.49

Alternative & Indie - Released May 27, 2016 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

For Catfish and the Bottlemen, growth is measured along the scale of refinement, not ambition. The Ride, the 2016 sophomore set that follows their debut, The Balcony, by two years, finds the band still pledging allegiance to the rock & roll of Y2K, but their increased assurance underscores their debt not to the Arctic Monkeys but the Strokes. Honing the hooks and beefing up the production wind up whittling away whatever British eccentricities that were lingering on The Balcony, but where Alex Turner's crew followed Josh Homme down a desert rabbithole, this crew values precision. Usually, this means The Ride can pack a punch even when the guitars aren't cranked to the max: the open space of "Soundcheck" and the ringing jangle of "Postpone" sink their hooks in a way the faster, cloistered stuff doesn't. Then again, when The Ride does get loud, it never feels raucous. Catfish and the Bottlemen hit their marks dutifully, rushing through their melodies but never taking it so quick that the singsong tunes don't stick, slowing down the tempo for needed breathers and ending the whole shebang with "Outside," an extended number designed to ratchet up expectations prior to the obligatory encore. All this means that even if Catfish and the Bottlemen don't bring much to the table, they know how to follow a blueprint without missing a beat. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
$1.49

Alternative & Indie - Released January 8, 2019 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 10, 2017 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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