In January 2015, Catfish and the Bottlemen’s debut album The Balcony was certified gold for surpassing sales of one-hundred thousand copies in the UK, less than six months after its release. A defining moment for modern British indie-rock, The Balcony married introspective lyrics with massive, arena-ready choruses at a level that bands five albums into their career could only dream of. Less than two years on from this impressive debut, Catfish and the Bottlemen are back with The Ride, a follow-up that doubles down on the hooks that made their debut so beloved while also acting as a transition from indie darlings to a full-blown rock band.
The second ‘7’s pulsing chorus kicks in, any notion that success may have eroded Catfish and the Bottlemen’s signature charm will surely be abandoned, with frontman Van McCann proclaiming “I don’t think through things, I never get time”. ‘Twice’ and lead single ‘Soundcheck’ have much more of a rock and roll flavour than anything the band have released before; the former culminating in a half-time chorus, revealing a newfound swagger as the canvas for McCann’s confessional lyrics (“I ain’t ever going back to thinking straight”).
While the opening build-up of ‘7’ may seem a little too familiar to The Strokes’ anthem ‘Reptilia’, the first half of The Ride sees The Bottlemen expand their scope of influence beyond the indie acts of the early 2000s whom they were previously keen to borrow from. In fact, The Ride loses steam when McCann and co sink back into the cookie-cutter indie stylings of The Balcony on ‘Oxygen’, ‘Emily’ and ‘Red’. While die-hard fans will appreciate these deeper cuts, on an album that appears eager to further the band’s sound, the less sophisticated lyrics and simpler song structures on these tracks seem regressive in comparison.
Thankfully, acoustic number ‘Heathrow’ and slow-burning anthem ‘Outside’ end The Ride on a high. The latter is sure to become a staple in the bands setlist, with a huge chorus leading into the dissonant yet catchy-as-hell bridge section from which this album takes its name. Only two albums into their career, Catfish and the Bottlemen’s potential is undeniable; when The Ride is at its best, it’s a dynamic, catchy and effortlessly charming rock and roll record that only wavers when it falls into naive genre clichés.