Live Review: Catfish and the Bottlemen / Bitter Strings, Bodega (27/10/13)

Sometimes a gig can lift you. Being in a sweaty room, with fifty other sweaty humans, enjoying 120 decibels of noise shoved into your ears at a dangerously close proximity, can be enough to make you forget the crushing banality of your everyday existence eating Boots Meal Deals and drinking Fosters. Sometimes a mere twenty minutes of music can make you feel alive, ready to take on the world. Not tonight.

Catfish and the Bottlemen are a throwback – well, at least they want to be a throwback. They are actually a child of the music industry’s obsession with reality. Catfish and the Bottlemen would tell you they make ‘real music’. But Catfish and the Bottlemen do not make real music. They make music that they think people want to hear.

catfishsperm copy

It would be OK if they had some good songs – interesting, catchy, progressive, anything that doesn’t peddle the same pseudo-emotional shtick that has made the Kings Of Leon so popular in recent years. “That one was written by ourselves, none of that Strypes shit”, says frontman Van McCann, conveniently forgetting that writing a song is pointless unless it’s any good.

“That one was written by ourselves”, says frontman Van McCann, conveniently forgetting that writing a song is pointless unless it’s any good.

First up, however, are Bitter Strings, a Nottingham four-piece similarly preoccupied with the size of their quiff rather than the substance of their songs. Not that it’s particularly bad – the group are tight and have a strong stage presence. It all just seems a little forced, as if frontman Ben McConnachie has a 12-page summary of Alex Turner’s Glastonbury performance. Humbug­-era Artics seem an obvious touchpoint, although Northern Soul references also abound. A couple of big singles and there’s no reason for Bitter Strings not to break through to the mainstream, but maybe they just need to have a bit of fun first.

Then Catfish and the Bottlemen take to the stage. They have a sperm for a logo, I notice. Yes, a sperm for a logo. After about five minutes they ask two female crowd members to take their tops off. And just in case we were left in any doubt, Van shoots down a crowd member who calls out “You’re great!” with “That’s a bit gay”. Just to confirm, Catfish are not gay.

They also have a lovely poster near their merch table at the back advertising ‘Nottingham Specials’. ‘Cum Sarnies’ are £2, ‘with cheese’ for an added pound.

They also have a lovely poster near their merch table at the back advertising ‘Nottingham Specials’. ‘Cum Sarnies’ are £2, ‘with cheese’ for an added pound. Heart-warming stuff indeed. To be fair, it might have even raised a wry smile were it not for the fact that they seem to write out the same poster for every gig. Rock and roll indeed.

catfishcuntnobsThe music washes over like a forgettable 0-0 England qualifier away at Moldova. It’s not offensive at all, but that’s almost worse than it being genuinely terrible. Instead, it’s cool, calm and collected – and totally heartless.

The music washes over like a forgettable 0-0 England qualifier away at Moldova. It’s not offensive at all, but that’s almost worse than it being genuinely terrible.

Catfish and the Bottlemen are a band with fake names, leather jackets and an all-black dress code. They play middle-of-the-road indie rock and use their status as a band to fulfil the rock’n’roll dream of asking thirties women to take their tops off. Real music, ladies and gentlemen.

Jonnie Barnett

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31 Comments on this post.
  • Hannah Cromwell
    1 November 2013 at 00:33
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    I think you need to “have a bit of fun” yourself – the gig was great fun and very engaging. Both bands had good music. I think the key to being a good writer is highlighting the positives and the negatives. If you’re just gonna moan then don’t bother because it’s just not a good read – especially because the kind of people who are going to read this are the people who went to and enjoyed the gig/fans.

    Also I’m not sure if it’s your place to say whether music is ‘middle of the road’ when you’re a sports editor. It’s really not your field… If you get me.

  • Jimmy Stooge
    1 November 2013 at 14:29
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    Erm, i think you’ve kind of missed the point of music “critics” there, Hannah. Their job isn’t to go to every gig and enjoy it – it’s to provide a critique (negative and positive).. Also, this band blows (no pun intended on the picture).

    • Jimmy Stooge
      1 November 2013 at 14:30
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      (not negative and positive, negative OR positive, or both)

  • Alex Noble
    1 November 2013 at 16:17
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    Dear Hannah (if that in fact is your real name),

    If there were no positives, why is there any need to write about them? Massive clutching of straws.

    There was no moaning throughout the article – it was a genuine response to idiotic behaviour from the band, and the mundane nature of their music which is crippling the legitimacy of this country’s music scene.

    But maybe you should become a writer yourself – ‘both hands had good music’ is sure to be gracing the columns of the NME and Q Magazine in years to come.

    And finally, why if you are a sports writer can you not enjoy and be qualified to write about music too? I know for a fact Jonnie Barnett has ears, and is well within his rights to use them. I imagine you are the ‘Watching Paint Dry’ Editor at your fictional self congratulating magazine. Now go back to your middle of the road, indie by numbers trollop with your indie by numbers band with a name that sounds like a rejected Nickelodeon cartoon from 1997.

    Derek (Not Your) Field

  • Christian Carlisle
    2 November 2013 at 09:10
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    At last someone with some honesty!

  • becca
    10 November 2013 at 16:09
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    Jonnie Barnett you knobjockey, go back to telling inappropriate jokes to children and stop pretending you’re cool. Fucking loser.

    I mean…good article 😀

    From “A Fan”

    P.S can’t wait to hear some of your music, since I know that as well as having ears, you’re also a rather good musician. I could not comment on your sports playing however.

  • Joe
    13 February 2014 at 19:32
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    I’ve been a fan of Catfish and The Bottlemen since 2010. I have become quite good friends with them. They genuinely are nice lads and they are a brilliant band.

    This article angers me. But if I was Van Mccann and read this article, it wouldn’t bother me as much as you clearly want it to. To be brutally honest, unless you’re somebody who he has a lot of respect for (i.e talented musicians and artists) your opinion doesn’t matter. Your opinion doesn’t matter because for every person like you (or every moron) who obviously doesn’t understand the band, there are hundreds of people that do and that’s what matters.

    You clearly aren’t in a position to be slagging talented bands off unless you’ve been in a band yourself and you’ve made better music than them yourself. Ask yourself what you have achieved? They are trying (and succeeding nowadays) to make a living in one of the toughest industries in the world and their determination and talent is what is making this band become successful. They have earned their fans through relentless touring and working hard for years and they deserve recognition. They deserve to be silly on stage. They are young lads having a good time. Would you rather every band be boring and not having anything amusing or interested to say while they’re on stage? At least they have originality. I

    When Catfish and the Bottlemen get the success that they deserve (and they will because they are a fantastic, talented, interesting, funny, explosive, energetic rock band which is what the music industry is desperately lacking), it will be even sweeter because it will get right up the nose jealous, bitter, moronic people like that author of this article.

  • Sean
    25 February 2014 at 20:41
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    Are you serious ‘Joe’?

    Not that it’s a surprise a fanboy of theirs would be sticking up for them but the fact they they’ve, according to you, worked hard they deserve success is ridiculous. If you bothered to look around there’s band after band who are genuinely making amazing music that work probably a lot harder than this band who aren’t and won’t achieve commercial success. They ARE writing middle of the road music. It sounds like something The Courteeners would’ve thrown away a few years ago – there’s nothing new, exciting or anything else about it. If you find that merch board in anyway funny then you need to ask yourself a question. That level of stupidity wouldn’t even have been funny when I was 13.

    Go check out some more bands my friend.

  • Phil
    5 April 2014 at 16:31
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    Finally! A brutally honest review!
    I’ve seen Catfish and have to say I agree with this review (it was a different gig to the one being reviewed). They were very tight as a band but it was nothing to go running to the iTunes store for.
    I’m in a band (in fact I’m in two) and I have to say I was disgusted by the attitude they had towards the sound technicians the night I saw them, I was actually embarrassed for them. Yes there were sound difficulties but you don’t complain and insult the sound man unless you want the sound to get worse (yes that does happen and yes you usually deserve it). Rule number one of playing live: Don’t slag off the sound man.

    I’ve seen plenty of bands with much better songs, stage presence and attitude gigging on shoe string budgets while working 9-5 jobs. To be honest I’d rather support those guys than a band who appear to be breaking through under brute force and ignorance with half cooked songs and financial backing.

  • Kat
    5 April 2014 at 17:21
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    Joe… “unless you’re somebody who he has a lot of respect for (i.e talented musicians and artists) your opinion doesn’t matter” – shush, my boy. If the band are hoping to sell their music then ALL opinions matter – good and bad – especially when that opinion will have a direct effect on people listening to the band/buying their records. Accept the good, work on the bad.

    I’ve not heard this band before (well, I don’t remember them if I have…) so after reading this, I figured I’d give the video a fair chance and make my own mind up. I turned it off after 1.05. As well as this video I also watched ‘Kathleen’, ‘Rango’ and ‘Pacifier’. It’s boring. “Middle of the road indie” as many have said. I’d have liked to have heard something a bit different to everything else that’s out at the moment.

    (Their sign sucks by the way)

    No music talent whatsoever, but I will purchase good music.

  • Matt
    10 April 2014 at 19:30
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    This is probably the most brutally honest review I’ve read for this group but I totally disagree with pretty much everything you’ve said. I’ve been to a fair few Catfish gigs and they’ve been amazing! So what if they’re offering signed tits for a quid? They guys have been doing relentless touring since about 2010 and they’ve just been having fun and doing what they love. Also, I don’t think the band give a toss anyway, I bet whoever reads this review will go on to youtube and check out their stuff and get hooked on it, so any press is good press!

    They’re live performances are uber tight, energtic, explosive and they interact with the crowd constantly. I would honestly prefer a bunch of silly lads having a laugh than some bunch of posers wearing sun glasses on stage and not moving about because they’re too cool to get jiggy. For every negative Catish review there’s 100 positive reviews. I’m not being a protective fan boy, I just know good music when I hear it.

  • Daniel
    12 April 2014 at 23:18
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    They are shit. End of story

  • Frankie Christou
    18 May 2014 at 15:31
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    Personally, I find this review totally irradical and harsh to say the least. Catfish and the Bottlemen are a young and upcoming band who are finally establishing themselves. They tour relentlessly and perhaps “Jonnie”,with a wrong spelled name which sounds like a butch female who you wouldn’t mess with in a bar, needs to just sit back and think , they’re a bunch of mates having a laugh doing what they love by producing and playing music who h they write themselves, something which is rare these days in the music industry.

    What bands do you know that just don’t give a total monkeys on what they do? I can name a few: Oasis,Arctic Monkeys and The 1975. All these bands drink smoke and do drugs something which “rock and roll” is all about. Not having a full personality and taking everything seriously.
    Every band froms it’s own personality and has it’s own story and Catfish and the Bottlemen are just forming there’s and growing as a band. Who in my eyes make good music and probally one to look out for in the near future.

    This peice of irrelevant opinion on a band who are just having a laugh and enjoying themselves just goes to show that there are some people out there who don’t know what fun and a laugh is and probally get told off by there mummies if they come home too late from a trip to the local cafè.

    • Anonymous
      19 May 2014 at 00:38
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      You sound like a moron frank.

    • Anonymous
      20 May 2014 at 11:08
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      Just no words for the utter pile of steaming nonsense you’ve just left on here. Get off the internet.

    • Sean
      20 May 2014 at 11:10
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      I’ve just got no words for this steaming pile of nonsense you’ve just written. Get off the internet.

  • Will
    18 May 2014 at 15:41
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    Dire band, solid review.

  • Julee B
    18 May 2014 at 16:29
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    I was one of the girls who was told to get their top off………..firstly we do their merch on tour and we had CATB tshirts on and the quote was “get them off I hope you’ve paid for them”.
    Plus if anyone bothered to read anymore of this guys reviews you’ll see he knows nothing about music and has no taste!!
    Make ur own opinion and do not base it on someone else’s.

  • Em
    18 May 2014 at 22:46
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    Catfish and the bottlemen float a lot of boats obviously not yours but hey that’s your opinion, I don’t really see what the lads sign has to do with the music they make? They’re young and trying to have a little bit of fun whilst on a relentless tour! Anybody reading this should just try a gig, I’m pretty sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

  • James
    6 August 2014 at 18:04
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    The NME bought me here

    and frankly this review is pretty shocking considering i saw them and enjoyed the show a few months later, the poster was gone. and vann especially is brilliant at connecting with his fans, both male and female. That poster wasn’t present and i met Vann and found him to be a genuinely friendly guy. Anyway i quite like their music, Vann Mcann is actually the guys real name. and I’m glad they’re having some success.

    obviously this behavior is not acceptable, but my experience of seeing this band was very different

    • Matty Palmer
      9 September 2014 at 16:42
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      ‘The NME bought me here’

      What a wonderful way to stop people reading instantly!

      Just listened to one of their songs on YouTube and I’ve got to say the review is spot on. Dreadful, ready salted, indie toss. All been done before, including the “Aren’t I wacky and carefree” frontman shtick. The primary school poster craic is about the only original thing they have to offer and the less said about that the better…

  • Nick
    9 September 2014 at 16:19
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    90% of commenters seem to be missing the point here.

    I’ve seen the band twice (2012 & 2013) and they’re decent live, no doubt, but clearly the bigger issue raised by the author here is their questionable attitude towards women and questionable on-stage comments.

    ‘They’re just lads having fun’ and ‘For every one hater you’ll get 100 fans’ doesn’t really excuse some pretty childish behaviour (at best) on their part. Time to grow up, band and fans alike!

  • Joe
    9 September 2014 at 16:26
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    10/10 review

  • Distance Left
    12 December 2014 at 19:28
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    Having never heard of this band before an hearing them on the bbc music awards I was left utterly non plussed, your review reminds me of Simon Sweetmen and his ‘this is what I think, nuts to you all’ approach.

    If people like them and they get big, well done them, but it’s clearly got a lot to do with what zappa noticed when he said ‘teenage girls shouldn’t set the musical tastes of America’.

    I’ll have to read more, cheers.

  • jack
    1 February 2015 at 13:19
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    Well they seem to be doing ok for themselves now Haha

  • Adriana
    4 April 2015 at 11:46
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    hahahahahaha this article is so funny

    if someone doesn’t know already – they told the march girls that they can have their tshirts if they do a good job and Van said ‘ I meant after the gig, take them off’ THATS THE STORY lol I think someone who is a journalist should have more knowledge of the band that they are reviewing, just saying.. if you knew more about the band, at least heard the story of the name you’d knew why they use sperm cells x

  • Gee
    31 March 2016 at 23:09
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    I know this is an old review but as Adriana and Julee B have said the situation was totally misunderstood by you. You are entitled to your opinion of the band’s music but maybe you should check your facts before you make a review? They use a sperm cell because Van McCann was a test tube baby and the third try of IVF. Technically ‘Van’ is part of his real name Ryan E’Van’ McCann and Bondy’s nickname comes from his surname Johnny Bond. Please, get your facts straight next next time. xo

  • ryan duff
    12 May 2016 at 07:01
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    you gonna do a re-review?

  • Anonymous
    3 February 2017 at 16:42
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    Most average lyrics ever

  • Bailey
    13 March 2017 at 00:32
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    How many rock groups have been disrespectful to women, whether in a comment on stage, lyrics, album art, etc? A lot. As Julee B said, the comment was misunderstood. If anyone has read interviews with Van McCann, he explains that the offensive merch sign was written up by his friend Larry who was bored out of his mind, and wanted a laugh. (Also, how anybody took it seriously is beyond me… Exorcisms? Really? Loosen up!) It was not thought through by any means and unfortunately it reflected back on the band. As a woman, I’m not offended by any of the flagged evidence cited in this article. If I got offended by every little thing someone idiotically said or did that could be classified as sexist or disrespectful… As for their music, people DO want to hear Catfish and the Bottlemen… maybe not the writer of this review. Listen to their music yourself and form your own opinion.

  • Annie
    16 September 2018 at 15:04
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    IT’S 2018 and they are, in my opinion, a very under-rated band! I can’t wait for their 3rd album to be released.

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