Catfish and the Bottlemen’s latest album sticks to the indie rock tropes of the 2000s and you’ll either be bored of it or love the throwback.
The creatively named Welsh band follow in the suit of The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, Razorlight, and the Arctic Monkeys. The music is tame, accessible and uncontroversial and “cool moms” have a copy of it on CD which they listen to in the car. There’s nothing wrong with the Bottlemen formula, but we were kind of hoping for more.
Don’t get me wrong, every song on The Balance is decent enough. “Fluctuate” will perform well at festivals and “Conversation” is one for rolling the windows down and giving a hearty “WOOHOOOO!” because indie anthems spell out summer days and freedom. “Encore” is also a tune, layering distorted guitars and melodies. Ryan McCann sings: “I suppose your life goes the way that it goes / And you’ll notice you get fed up pretty quick these days”. Anyone in their mid-20s will relate to this feeling, only we can’t help but feel the same way about this predictable indie album.
Of course, no one enters a Catfish and the Bottlemen album expecting a full orchestra or a theremin. We would have liked something though to show that the band has embraced the new era. In 2018’s Stimulation Theory, Muse threw themselves into the deep end with futuristic sounds and Arctic Monkeys played with new technologies and Blade Runner-esque sound effects in Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. Meanwhile, The Balance is stuck in 2010 and pushes no boundaries and takes no risk.
Nonetheless, if we assess the new record as a 2010 album, it fairs pretty well. The band sounds tight and each track is tightly produced. The songs are all good and the guitars make us feel like we are supposed to feel after listening to an album of indie tunes. So sure, The Balance is no modern masterpiece but we’d still walk to the indie tent to catch Catfish and the Bottlemen at a 3:00 pm Coachella slot. If they clash with pretty much any other band we like though, we’d probably give them a miss – because we’re people of the present.