The British indie rock band Catfish and the Bottlemen released their second full length album The Ride in May 2016, which was, personally, highly anticipated. The roomy sound of the band’s first full studio album, The Balcony (2014), was not lost in The Ride. It doesn’t depart from their established indie rock sound to any extreme, although, with a voice reminiscent of The Kooks’ Luke Pritchard, lead vocalist and lyricist Ryan Evan “Van” McCann does push this album to a new level of heartbreak and entertainment. Backed by band members Johnny Bond on guitar, Benji Blakeway on bass, and Bob Hall on drums, the album brings out the highs and lows of life through witty lyrics and uncommonly engaging music.
The album opens with “7”, a smooth intro into the subdued, yet passionate sound of the album. McCann starts with his usual confident and almost careless method, but by the end of “Twice” the strung out, stirring emotions of the lyrics are apparent. “Soundcheck” keeps up the noise, and the relentless guitars and drums match McCann’s agitated vocals, while “Postpone” retains some restraint and poses more melancholy lyrics to the listener.
The noisy rock sound of “Anything” is kept in check by “Glasgow” when they drop the drums and feature a muted, acoustic sound to the guitar. The quieter song is anything but a break, rather bringing two different sides to the talented band into the spotlight. The stripped vocals and subdued background leaves the listener alone with McCann and his bittersweet lyrics. “Oxygen” picks up the pace without losing any of the closeness or longing, and the song blends nicely into the sweet melodic build of “Emily”.
Towards the end of the album, the loud, accusatory sound of “Red” contrasts with the slow, conceding abandon of “Heathrow”. The band returns to their classic The Balcony sound with “Outside”, the final song on the album. It finishes with a nearly painful cliffhanger that drops you off into nothing and leaves you wanting more. On first listen, I thought the stream had an error, and I started the song over only to be duped again by the abrupt end.
The Ride brings in elements of soft rock and pleasing melody to balance the appealing emotional chaos and grunge rock sound of Catfish and the Bottlemen that they established during The Balcony. The band has a very well balanced sound throughout the album that draws in the listener until you forget exactly what you’re listening to. Not to say Catfish and the Bottlemen are background music; the album as a whole is earworm-worthy and catchy as hell. Although The Balcony will always have a special place in my music library, The Ride has made its way into a spot with my top albums for its raw emotion and excruciatingly candid lyrics.
Catfish and the Bottlemen- “Twice”