Catfish and the Bottlemen are four lads from Wales with sex on the brain. One could say any young fellas worth a scrap from anywhere have sex on the brain, but these cats couple that lust with razor-sharp hooks and anthemic vocals.
Balcony, their full-length debut on Island/Communion, squishes 11 taut tantrums into one consumable box. Bastille fans will foam at the shuffling “Sidewinder,” with its persistent beat and Van McCann’s pub-doused singing. There are the near-funky upstrokes from guitarist Johnny Bond, which swing away into “Live Forever”-like heights. Drummer Bob Hall keeps things frenetic and electric, and bassist Benji Blakeway thrums like he’s ready to burst.
Produced by Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian collaborator Jim Abbiss, the standout single “Kathleen” is full of drum rolls and gnashed words. It’s cleaner and fiercer than many a “Balcony” track, but it serves as a good intro for American ears. This writer first heard the jumpy song at a Journeys shoe store while trying on some Union Jack Doc Martens. Fitting since Catfish emit a strong Anglophile vibe that will appeal to aging hipsters who miss dancing to Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand.
The biggest problem with Balcony – and so many other albums of the “me” generation – is the omnipresence of fuck. Nearly every song here spits out the expletive. Especially guilty are the soaring, U2-ish “Cocoon,” replete with “fuck its”; and the bedroom sigh of “Hourglass.” “You know when you’re gone I struggle at night / Dreams of you fucking me all the time,” McCann laments over a woodsy acoustic guitar. What could have been a beautiful sentiment gets botched. These songs have enough pull and zing to lure listeners without such tossed-off profanity.
Catfish and the Bottlemen – named for a busker McCann knew growing up in Australia – are a band for these times. With their shaggy, rhythmic tomes churning with sex and booze, they could be the Strokes for the Instagram set.