Sound — 7
Catfish and the Bottlemen broke onto the UK indie scene in 2014 after going the Arctic Monkeys route and handing out a demo tape at shows; they released their debut album called "The Balcony." "The Balcony" was surprisingly fresh to hear a band as known exactly what sound they are capable of achieving. Their was explosive verses, and catchy choruses with McCann's rough vocals serenading us the entire way though.
On this album Catfish continue off where "The Balcony" left off, and it comes off as slightly stale. Van is perfectly aware of the very minimum that needs to go into a song in order for it to work, and that to me is a bit underwhelming. Some people may be pleased because it isn't something new, but I was just expecting more. Van has the ability to explode in choruses, but so many of these songs lose their jolt half way through the song. They seem to think the slowing down the tempo, and having just an acoustic; or bass line is a sufficient "break down." Van could really explore some emotional curves, but instead he opts to do literally; the same as on "The Balcony."
There are strengths to the album, where Van *almost* does what I want him too, and they are memorable. Songs like "Red," "Postpone," "Outside" and "Soundcheck" are standouts. "Red" is the highlight of the album for me, simply because they explore an original concept within their arsenal of singing about girls, and being on the road.
Overall, the album is recorded very well; as it was recorded by the Dave Sardy (Oasis), and it shows. However, production doesn't equal quality; and that's where the album suffers. The complete lack of originality from the band is simply boring, it may have worked with the Arctic Monkeys or Oasis; but something needs to change to keep interest. Their sound live is electric, but recording the album as cleanly as they did was a mistake. They should have had more distortion to add the touch of rawness that "The Balcony" possessed.
Lyrics — 6
The lyrics on "The Balcony" were very straightforward, and very effective. Unfortunately, this doesn't translate well on "The Ride"; as the lyrics seem like an attempt to gather the same urgency that "The Balcony" had. The melodies are there, and sometimes the lyrics just seem so cliche; that its hard to enjoy Van's voice over the music. "The Ride" was written with the same attitude as "The Balcony," it just seems that "The Ride" has a tad bit more pretentiousness, and smugness, thanks to its attempt at emulating their previous album. Most songs come across as empty attempts at writing stadium anthems, without any of the emotional wait presented in the first album. "Red" is the only song that feels like there are stakes in it for Van. Where as almost every song on "The Balcony" felt like Van put everything into each one; and it was all on the line, "The Ride" feels like an empty shell of left over ideas from the 1st album.
Overall Impression — 7
There are a couple of good songs, "7," "Postpone," "Red," but the majority are forgettable. Van McCann is known to say that he is writing "within the box," while so many other artists are trying to be "outside the box." It shows on this album, and is clear that Van hasn't progressed his musical writing abilities; in fact he's remained absolutely stagnant. Van's ability to find emotional hooks on songs was his strength on "The Balcony," and hear it is lost of lousy writing and recording that is *too clean*.
Overall, I was not impressed with "The Ride"; as it felt like 1 step forward with a couple songs and than 2 backwards with the rest. I hope Catfish and the Bottlemen take a break, and enjoy their success for a bit before returning with a 3rd album. "The Ride" was intended to be a continuation of "The Balcony," and that may be your thing. However, if you were expecting new material, exploring new areas; than you will be disappointing.