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More Lows Than Highs On Catfish & The Bottlemen's Debut "The Balcony"

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

There’s been a huge amount of hype surrounding the launch of Catfish and The Bottlemen’s debut The Balcony.  Having played over 30 festivals throughout 2014 along with huge media support for their 3 singles, has the bar been set too high for an album that was so eagerly anticipated?

Subba-Cultha’s been keeping an eye on the 4 chaps from Llandudno who have regularly been in the media spotlight throughout the course of 2014.  They've received huge backing from Zane Lowe who featured all their singles as his hottest record in the world and further to that they were no.1 on MTVs "Hottest Tracks of April".  Even Subba-Cultcha got in on the act, both speaking to the front man, Van McCann (click here for the interview) and also featuring his bath-time playlist (click here to listen).

Although I’m far from relying on the backing of popular culture for recommendations as to new bands and their music (I work at Subba-Cultcha that would be ridiculous) these sources aren’t normally a hideously bad way of getting small amounts of insight into bands and how well audiences are responding to them (especially Subba-Cultcha!!).

So it I was a little surprised when I wasn't blown away by The Balcony.  It's actually a sense of confusion that provides the negative tinge on what could be a very good debut, as the bands image and production suggest a very different outcome to the one I've just listened to.  Allow me to explain…

Van McCann and co’s image whether orchestrated themselves or by the label portrays 4 dark and edgy youths, often clad in leather looking sultry and solemn. Now although we at Subba-Cultcha are well aware Van is actually a very charming individual, a gentlemen some might say, I was hoping The Balcony was aligned with their image and produced a number of guttural punches combined with loud drums and heavy rock guitar riffs.  More of an Indie Rock style if I were to put a label on it.

As an accompaniment to their style, “Kathleen” their first single to be released after joining Island Records was produced by Jim Abbiss who has worked with the Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian, both of who's debut albums were edgy and slapped you in the face with their fantastic pace.

So my expectations for The Balcony were set at a tremendously high level, which is unfortunately its' undoing in my opinion.  Apart from a few stand-out tracks; “Pacifier” (one of the singles), “Cocoon” and “26” the album lacks edge, in fact I’d go so far as to say it’s a very pop lead piece of work.  To be honest this shouldn’t have come as a surprise, judging by the testimonials it received from Zane Lowe and MTV, however it does clash with what I thought I was going to hear.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with pop music, I’m a big fan, but my conflict is pop wasn't what I was lead to believe I would be listening to… I thought Catfish & The Bottlemen were going to fire me up as a great Indie Rock band, however the album provides more of a middle of the road debut - nothing too raucous - which I feel is actually more detrimental to the finished product than if they'd gone all out and got it horribly wrong.

Written by Mark Jennings