Catfish & The Bottlemen – ‘The Balcony’

A dated and ham-fisted debut from the Llandudno quartet

Catfish And The Bottlemen’s debut arrives pent-up with frustration. The Llandudno four-piece, fronted by Van McCann (named after Van Morrisson) have slogged for six years in a tiny van desperately trying to escape their small town, McCann getting expelled from school in the process. ‘The Balcony’ is informed both by their struggle and their noughties indie elders.

All this adds up to a dated sound. McCann howls like a hungover Luke Pritchard over riffs and choruses stuck firmly in 2005 (‘Homesick’, ‘Kathleen’). He resonates most when drawing from his past. Born after a last-resort IVF treatment, the 21-year-old was often forced to sleep in a linen closet at the cramped B&B his young parents lived in after moving to Wales from Australia. “You just don’t know how it feels to lose,” he screams on ‘Pacifier’, but his candour is drowned in a Courteeners-lite barrage.

Elsewhere, he misfires badly, particularly when addressing relationships: “I struggle to sleep at night/but it’s fine she never lets me” (‘Fallout’), “I know when you’re gone I struggle at night/dreams that you’re fucking me all the time” (‘Hourglass’). But Catfish aren’t concerned with subtlety; misguided or not, their unstoppable desire and conviction get in the way. Fortunately for them, big choruses don’t require intricacy, and occasionally their melodies do connect, as on the insatiable ‘Rango’. Mostly though, McCann and his band sound ham-fisted and about nine years too late.

Ben Homewood