The Balcony, the debut album from Welsh indie hopefuls Catfish & The Bottlemen has finally arrived after what seems like an eternity of snippets and tasters. A radio play here, a track used on a goal of the month montage there, somebody somewhere has been plugging these lads for a while now.
Now, as band names go, this one is fairly hard to forget – meaning that these little plugs and name drops haven’t been in vain. That’s not to say that music is forgettable, it’s not. But it has all added to the general air of hype and expectation surrounding these young lads without so much as an album to their name. Nothing new there, it’s fair to say. So now that the album is here, has it all been worth it? In short, yes. The Balcony is everything you would expect from a band who use this image as an album cover and this as a promotional video. It’s at times lyrically juvenile and without finesse (“and the sun’s up, and my head’s fucked), but if we’re being honest about it, so what? These songs are punchy, bright, confrontational and effectively fizzing with the vitality of youth.
In terms of production it is nearly flawless. There’s enough room between the instruments to allow their musicianship to shine and front-man Vann McCann is as deft at his job as you can imagine. Despite the crudeness of some of these lyrics, he delivers them wryly enough to seem aloof; somehow saving the songs from falling into Blink 182 territory. When he’s not doing that he has the ability you make feel for him when he’s being earnest. It’s akin to somebody telling dick and fart jokes while battling flames in their burning home. The songs themselves are, for the most part, great examples of confident songwriting. They are weighty and appealing, clearly developed and played to suit the band’s style of playing.
This album is far from perfect, there are some moments of insufferable giddiness which take too much out of the collection of songs. Again, it harks back to immaturity alluded to earlier. Alex Turner, Morrissey, Isaac Brock, Gruff Rhys and John Grant, some of the standout lyricists of recent times all have times when their attempts at pithy are filed under horseshit, they’ve all missed the target in some form or another. Catfish & The Bottlemen are perfectly entitled to write and sing about whatever they want – more power to them. Their slightly wonky perspectives and are perfectly neutralised by their defiance and The Balcony, is all the better for it.