The Welsh Indie Rock band gives us their latest offering with The Balance. Their first two albums perfected their catchy rock style. The question was whether they would switch it up for their third entry. Evidently Van McCann and co. subscribe to the adage that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
“McCann bring[s] his trademark swagger”
‘Longshot’ is a confident opener to the album, with McCann bringing his trademark swagger. It’s a solid track which builds up to a powerful choral crescendo. ‘Fluctuate’, the second single tells a similar story of catchy riffs and rocky choruses. Both have the potential to become anthems but just fall short.
‘2All’ switches up the style somewhat, with a softer start, similar to fan favourite ‘Glasgow’, but builds to an electric chorus, evocative of ‘Kathleen’. The two styles both work, but may have benefitted from being two separate songs.
“The electric, distorted guitar licks bring a flavour of garage punk, a raw sound”
The final pre-album single ‘Conversation’ offers driving riffs in abundance. This track feels most similar to the songs from their imperious debut album The Balcony. The electric, distorted guitar licks bring a flavour of garage punk, a raw sound compared to the more polished ‘Longshot’. ‘Encore’ is fairly middle of the road, relying on its pleasant rhythmic guitar, but is nothing to write home about.
“‘Sidetrack’ and ‘Basically’ … succeed in responding to the critics through clever lyrics”
The rhythmic guitar style in ‘Sidetrack’ conjures the spirit of ‘Emily’ from The Ride, but it lacks the reflection and emotion of its counterpart. Both ‘Sidetrack’ and ‘Basically’ do succeed in responding to the critics through clever lyrics; McCann defiantly exclaims ‘I’m not being sidetracked by all that’s been asked of me’. I interpret this as a response to critics who questioned Catfish’s ability to evolve between their first two albums. ‘Basically’ continues to say ‘Nothing’s really changed between then and now’. This essentially summarises The Balance. Catfish and The Bottlemen have found their niche, and they’re the best at what they do. I criticised Arctic Monkeys for completely changing up their sound for the divisive Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, so changing things can backfire and it’s understandable why they would stick to their guns, but it is now their third similar album, and unfortunately The Balance feels uninspired.
“[Intermission] seems lazy and leaves the listener feeling short changed”
The lack of inspiration can be encapsulated by ‘Intermission’ which serves no purpose on the album, as it is essentially just 100 seconds of dull, musical intermission, totally unnecessary for an album clocking in at just over half an hour. It seems lazy and leaves the listener feeling short changed.
“It feels somewhat like an imitation of the old Catfish”
‘Mission’ is a return to form after ‘Intermission’, reminiscent of ‘Postpone’ from The Ride, yet much like the rest of the album it feels somewhat like an imitation of the old Catfish. Though McCann sings ‘Simple things, get them right, you’ll have enough to last your life’ it just doesn’t feel quite as good as before.
“The album closes as it opens, with a solid offering in ‘Overlap’”
The album closes as it opens, with a solid offering in ‘Overlap’. This is one of the better songs on the album, but the sudden changes in tone can be jarring and ticks the checklist for an album closing anthem, heavy riffs, stylish licks and driving drums, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the closer of The Balcony; ‘Tyrants’, an absolute masterclass in epic closers both recorded and live, that feels like it’s constantly building to a heroic climax.
Catfish and The Bottlemen have played it safe once again and it’s sure to be successful but with each successive album, the quality appears to slip. The Balcony was a flawless and exciting debut album, The Ride was an excellent follow up, but The Balance feels more like a tribute band trying to imitate Catfish. Here they are a shadow of what they can be. For a band with limitless potential they are sure to bounce back, but may find they need to push the boat out with their next venture, because on this occasion, Catfish bottled it.
Featured Image courtesy of Catfish and The Bottlemen Official Facebook Page.