Last Friday welsh indie-rockers Catfish and the Bottlemen released their third album, The Balance, three months after teasing fans with opening track Longshot. To put it simply, if you’re a fan of Catfish’s first two albums, 2014’s The Balcony and 2016’s The Ride, and want more of the same then you won’t dislike this album.
The Balance offers 11 more anthemic, catchy indie-rock hits to add to the Catfish collection. It’s pleasing to see Catfish playing a big part in helping to fly the flag for ‘guitar music’ in 2019 – they’re songwriting skills have in no way taken a hit on this album, and they’re still selling out arenas and headlining festivals across the country. There are however some drawbacks with the band’s overall approach to The Balance, and I’ll touch on these later in the review.
Opener Longshot is certainly a highlight of the album. It starts with lead singer Van McCann and a muted acoustic guitar, and then evolves to a full-band, catchy chorus, eventually leading to an impressive guitar solo. The next few tracks – Fluctuate, 2all and Conversation – are all highlights too. My favourite track though is Sidetrack. There’s nothing particularly outstanding about it compared to the rest of the album, I just keep finding myself gravitating towards it over and over again.
All three of Catfish’s albums have a number of deliberate similarities: Each album is titled the ‘something’, all have 11 songs with one word titles, black and white artwork with a simple hand-drawn illustration and the band’s logo in the top left corner, an abrupt ending on the closing track, and a very similar style of music. I appreciate the consistent similarities in artwork and album structure, but their style is becoming quite predictable. I think the phrase ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is fine, and it’s worked for bands like AC/DC, but Catfish don’t have a distinctive enough sound to pull this off in the long run.
The Balance is a solid effort, there’s no doubting that. There are some really great tracks which are up there with their best work, such as Longshot, Fluctuate, Sidetrack. But there are also a noticeable number of fillers in there too. For hardcore fans The Balance will be a treat and exciting to see live, but for listeners that have previously been on the fence, they won’t be converted after listening to this album. Catfish have just about got away with using the same formula for the third time, but for their next album it’s time for something new.
Top Tracks: Longshot, Fluctuate, Sidetrack
Release Date: April 26th, 2019