Although sometimes Radio 1’s music is questionable, generally when every single released track is premiered as Zane Lowe’s ‘Hottest Record in the World’, an artist must be doing something right. As such, Llandudno-formed four-piece Catfish and the Bottlemen’s debut album has been long-anticipated and expectations are high, but thankfully, it definitely doesn’t disappoint.
Opening track Homesick starts understated and stripped back, easing you in unsuspectingly. It then kicks in to an anthemic and heart-renching chorus, preparing you for the rest of the infectiously catchy album. To follow are three of the band’s biggest singles, Kathleen, Cocoon and Fallout.
It is rare that you find three consecutive tracks that equally as strong as one another, each with a memorable riff and captivating chorus that will have you singing along word-for-word within a few listens. The rest of the album follows suit, with highlights including the surprisingly sincere and sweet Hourglass, and 2013 single Rango.
What is most impressive about Catfish and the Bottlemen’s debut is exactly that; it doesn’t feel like a debut. There is a consistently self-assured air that runs throughout, confidence bordering on the right side of arrogance, that conveys they know exactly what they’re doing. Moments of genuinely heart-felt lyricism- ‘I crave your calls like a soldier’s wife’- are balanced out with typically teenage outbursts- ‘your friends, they can fucking do one’. This level of normality and realism within the lyrics echoes early Arctic Monkeys and is extremely refreshing.
There have been many lazy (and questionable) comparisons drawn on the release of The Balcony, with critics likening the boys to the likes of The Courteeners, The Strokes, Kings of Leon and Kaiser Chiefs, and referring to the album as a ‘weak nostalgic 2004 throwback’. However, no comparisons could possibly encapsulate the album in its entirety and do the band justice. Perhaps there is a certain likeness to other bands of the same genre, but The Balcony is an incredibly strong album in its own right. And the ticket sales really speak for themselves- the last time a UK tour managed to sell out even before the release of a debut album was Arctic Monkeys’ first tour of their debut album. The Balcony is the most refreshing and confident debut for a long time, and if it is anything to go by, Catfish and the Bottlemen are destined to go far.