Catfish and the Bottlemen return with an eagerly anticipated second album that highlights the following they have gained since emerging in emphatic fashion 18 months ago. It is a sizeable step towards their goal of filling stadiums with euphoric hits.
Continuing on from their debut ‘The Balcony’, this album features songs based exclusively on relationships and the highs and lows that they entail. ‘Glasgow’ documents the liberation that lead singer Van McCann feels ‘without checking my phone’ wanting to have personal space but being possessive simultaneously, pleading that ‘I want you to myself’. This track also emphasises the vocal dominance that is present in large parts of the album, thanks to McCann’s extremely impressive range.
The chemistry of the Bottlemen is lucid throughout ‘Anything’ with succinct drums and a whirling, carefree guitar solo that has a garage-like feel to it. Van also communicates his desire to put a prospective partner’s interests before his own, stating he would ‘give up smoking…if it means that we get through’ which suggests he must really care about her given his self-confessed love of smoking.
Of course, optimism is aplenty, most notably on the album opener ‘7’ and single ‘Soundcheck’ that demonstrate the quartet’s penchant for conjuring radio-friendly hits with catchy choruses. If only the fuzzy riff in the bridge section of the song went on for a few seconds longer. ‘Postpone’ is the type of track you stick on when frustrated or elated, its edgy chorus and exuberant riffs are perfect for any mood and has a strong feel of Oasis in its release of emotion. Being desperate to spend time with a significant other, the vocals plead her ‘take time off, tell ’em someone needs you’.
‘Oxygen’ tells the story of dependence upon others as ‘she leaves my heart eleven degrees’. It also appears to allude to the usefulness of drugs as ‘oxygen’s overrated, I don’t even need to breathe, she’s got a tankful of highs’. This song also highlights the maturity of the band in that if this track were to have appeared on their first LP, it would have a more powerful chorus, but the fact that it doesn’t adds more depth to what is a single-worthy hit.
‘Emily’ opens in reflective fashion thanks to the cut back instrumentals and soothing notes of McCann. Although it features an energetic chorus, it encapsulates both sides of the band perfectly. Their buzzing, youthful vibes are evident but the group are given an extra element in the form of their lead vocalist’s superb vocal range. ‘Red’ voices the anger and hurt of being ditched for somebody else, ‘can he do what I do for you’. Raw emotion which is masked for the majority of the album, is set free in the explosive chorus and shredding guitar solo.
The album comes to a close with very sombre, slower-paced tracks in ‘Heathrow’ and ‘Outside’. It features self-deprication, ‘I was nothing much’ and an extremely intimate relationship. ‘Hug her like her mother would’ and ‘snug her in the kitchen’ highlight the special place this girl from ‘a different league’ has on Van. The album finale, ‘Outside’, reflects upon a hookup that didn’t quite work out ‘I missed it, I was bound to’. It has a regretful yet positive edge, as if he is happier as a result of a breakup.
Overall, this is a fantastic album that stands out despite the recurring and ever-present topic of relationships. This is down to the group’s ability to produce songs that are sensitive yet optimistic, and the fact that Van McCann has arguably the best vocal range of an alternative lead singer only helps their lofty aspirations. This second album will do too, showcasing all the talents of a band that has already won a BRIT award. ‘The Ride’ shows that the Bottlemen are back with a bang!