The Ride review by Catfish and the Bottlemen

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  • Released: May 27, 2016
  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 6
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 6.7 Neat
  • Users' score: 7.5 (22 votes)
Catfish and the Bottlemen: The Ride

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.

8 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Completely disagree with you, mate. For anyone to imply the majority of the tracks are forgettable is disappointing. Though this was a continuation of the style and tone of their debut rather than a full-on sound mutation, the record is tremendous. Although the record is tonally similar to the first, there are instances that prove the band have evolved. New are blatant tempo changes, such as that at the latter end of "Twice', a significantly more prominent bass guitar throughout the record, the completely un-CATB track "Oxygen", which sounds more like a Noel Gallagher single than a Van McCann track, and his vocals stretching to their limit: see 3:57 in "Outside". Almost every track has a hook that glues to the inside of your head, and although the lyrics aren't Alex-Turner-metaphorical, they're effective and a perfect match for their respective instrumentation. The record reads not like figurative language but rather a direct letter to the audience. This fact doesn't make it inferior. I just think you need to listen to it a few more times. Cheers
    I've stopped really listening to this record now. Such a disappointment as I was so excited for it, if you don't believe me, check out all the tabs I wrote from the live versions of the songs prior to its release haha. Yeah, there is a nice tempo change in Twice. But the comment on Oxygen I can be skeptical on, as yeah it does sound just like an Oasis/Noel Gallagher song. But surely sounding like another successful band doesn't show any proof of "evolving", and it's more be a step back? Ryan's vocals have been toned down on this record too, mainly owing to him getting a vocal coach now. Yeah okay he has a tiny little scream in Outside (which he doesn't do live btw) but other than that?? Where is the gravely rawness that were in the Kathleen chorus/last verse in Tyrants?? There is non of it on The Ride. Bob's drumming has also been toned down a lot which is a real shame as he has a hell of a lot of potential. Compare his intricate style on Tyrants/Pacifier to Soundcheck and you'll see what I mean. Worst thing is I'm not even a drummer and I can tell. This album is forgettable and boring in many opinions other from mine, especially with all my musician friends with whom I have covered C&TB with many times. If you love it, I have no problem I just wanted to highlight against a few things you said with evidence. The amount Ryan has overhyped this album when comparing it to the first is criminal though and with all these new young teenage girls coming in as well, they've pretty much gained boyband status for me. Shame as I've known and loved them for years:/ (Apologies for the long reply I might as well submit this as a review haha.)
    100% agreed. I think the main issues with the album boils down to two main factors 1) no originality 2) no rawness The first factor can be applied to various albums from various artists, so it's not an issue exclusive to CatB, I just think they were trying to capitalize on the success of The Balcony rather than offering up quality original material. The second factor is where they need to regain their sound because the rawness that was all over the first is simply non existent on this one. Compare the ballads and you will clearly see what I mean. Hourglass has a sort of urgency, even if it is a slower song, but when compared to the painfully boring Glasgow, it simply shines. Every song off of The Balcony sounded like a song that needed to be written, where the majority off The Ride sound like songs that were written simply to finish an album. Either way, thanks for tabbing all the best songs off the album long before it's release! Fingers crossed that they just take some time to enjoy the fame before returning to the studio, no rush. CatB shouldn't be complacent with mediocrity since they really are capable of so much more!
    No problem for the tabs mate I'm going to be focusing on tabbing their older stuff now, my Bite Down Salvador tab is already up! I think a huge reason in the decline in quality for The Ride (no rhyming intended!) is a reason that nearly no one has touched on yet and that is the departure of Billy Bibby as it was their first release of original work after he left. Not trying to slate Bondy (he's a superb guitarist!) but I've spoken with Billy while he was with CatB and after he left at one of his gigs with his new band and I know for a fact he was far, far more than just the lead guitarist of the band. He composed all of the songs prior The Ride, had a really personal spot in the band (as you would after being with them for 7 years) and they still use his backing vocals today they're so good (if you think Benji sings the backings in Tyrants/Rango, think again!) As well as this, The Balcony was a collection of songs written over years and the track listing was completely based off reception from the audience during and after their gigs before it's release. The Ride was written over a few weeks in a small cottage in Chester and they weren't even in the studio together while writing their parts! They've changed so much, I'm almost thinking they've gone too far already. My prospect for the third album isn't good at all. Hopefully that's just me being pessimistic
    After listening to the album a few more times, I can say that I may have overlooked a track or two but that doesn't change the fact that this is album is incredibly unoriginal when compared to their first. Adding in a couple temp changes on tracks like Twice or Anything does nothing but remove any climactic element that the song was building towards. If a band has nothing new to offer, lyrically, emotionally or sonically; than I don't see the use in another album simply to "please fans", which is what was done here.
    I really don't understand how you can slate the album in a review and still give it a 7 overall rating. I agree with above to a certain extent in that you need to listen to the intricacies of each song to see their progression from The Balcony
    I didn't slate the album as garbage, I described it as disappointing; which is true. I reviewed the album very close to its release, so maybe I was being optimistic with my ratings. This deserves no more than a 6, with a 5 seeming appropriate. Aside from a couple of well recorded and produced solo's on tracks like Twice or Anything, there is really nothing else original that this album offers. As I said to the comment above, that is lisened to the album much more since this review and have come to appreciate a song or two more now than before; Emily being the standout. Many of the other tracks have detracted in quality since listening as well: Red, Soundcheck and 7 having become stale already. I still find myself enjoying tracks like Kathleen, Business and Tyrants and more from The Balcony far more than anything off The Ride. All I hear when I listen to the Ride is an attempt at cashing in on a lesser quality duplicate of their first album, and for that I can't forgive it.