What kind of nightmarish Groundhog Day scenario are Catfish and the Bottlemen trapped in? Since breaking the mainstream as rock and roll revivalists, a self-proclaimed antithesis to the TV talent show culture of 2014, the Welsh foursome have steadily found themselves recreating the same album with no signs of improving on what was, at best, a pretty average starting point.
‘The Balance’ comes dressed in the house style of its predecessors; minimalist cover art, single-word track titles, and even the same number of songs as 2016’s ‘The Ride’ and 2014 debut ‘The Balcony’. A house style can make a band stand out – take The 1975, whose recurring visual motifs are as recognisable as their hooks – but instead of reinventing a common theme with each LP, Catfish have taken the opposite approach, sticking with the same, boring livery and, surprise surprise, music to match.
‘Longshot’ makes for a brash and ballsy kick off, its monster riffs dripping with a certain confidence mediocre men do best. Admittedly not a bad start, but from here out Van McCann systematically ticks off every cliché in the indie frontman handbook over some of the blandest instrumentals since the last Catfish and the Bottlemen album. He assumes the role of bar stool philosopher on ‘Encore’, dropping such radical truth bombs as “I suppose your life goes the way that it goes”, muses on recording riffs on ‘Basically’ (Van ‘I’m A Rockstar!!’ McCann) and pebble dashes every other track with some generic quips about girls, channelling minimal charisma in his bog-standard vocal performance all the while.
‘The Balance’ begs the question, what is the Bottlemen’s endgame here? Do they plan on releasing the same eleven song package over and over, gradually shaving off any essence of individuality they may have begun with, until they’re left with a slab of lowest-common-denominator guitar pop, tame enough to rack up the radio plays but with just enough grit to kick off a circle pit? In resisting change, Catfish have shot themselves in the foot, and will surely soon enough find themselves sat gathering dust, devoid of any colour or character in the name of their beloved rock and roll.