As time keeps (slowly) ticking over, now is the perfect time to look back on some of the most popular bands of the last decade, Getintothis’ Sian Ellis reflects on Catfish and the Bottlemen’s greatest tunes.
Though they formed in 2007, and released two EP’s in 2009 and 2010 (Poetry and Fuel, Beautiful Decay), Catfish and Bottlemen came crashing onto the music scene in 2014 with their debut studio album The Balcony – which reached number 10 in the UK album charts.
The Balcony is a memorable album to say the least. Though containing all the attributes that make up a classic British indie-rock band, this ten-track debut offered something more distinctive. It’s an album that will always make this writer feel nostalgic, thinking back to discovering a different style of music in my college days.
Lead vocalist Van Mccan was instantly unforgettable. Through his vocals and controversial attitude, he possessed all the key qualities of being a renowned frontman – including his obvious passion for music.
The band’s signature sound is what ultimately pushed them into the limelight. Every song is catchy and exhilarating, with beats that call for windows down, volume up; and lyrics you feel obliged to sing out loud.
This is what has consistently kept the North Welsh rock band in the spotlight – producing memorable, relatable and upbeat tunes that still contain the classic indie-rock sound.
A fun fact about Catfish and the Bottlemen – they signed to Communion Records in 2013, which is owned by Mumford and Sons keyboard player Ben Lovett. This was short-lived, however, as they signed to Island Records in 2014.
Massively popular amongst a younger, new-music loving audience, Catfish and the Bottlemen quickly made a name for themselves. They were everywhere. As well as touring internationally, they were playing various festivals both in the UK and world-wide, including a recent gig at Liverpool’s M&S Bank Arena.
Catfish and the Bottlemen are no strangers to critique, with some labelling them as “unadventurous” or “arrogant” (though it seems some people love to hate the popular band, ‘coz, y’know, it’s too “mainstream”).
And yet, these are the same characteristics their large fan base love them for, admiring the dedication they have to their original sound, and their f*ck you attitude to anyone who disagrees.
The Balcony (2014) was shortly followed by two more albums, The Ride (2016) and The Balance (2019). The Ride (2016) soared straight to number 1 in the UK album charts, while The Balance (2019) just missed out on the top spot after it was released, making it to number 2.
The success and popularity of each and every album speaks for itself – Catfish and the Bottlemen are currently living in their prime.
It’s near impossible to pick just 10 of their best tracks – having this problem in such a short career span proves their star quality.
However, we’ve chosen the ones that stood out the most on their journey to stardom.
10. Soundcheck from The Ride (2016)
Soundcheck is one of them songs that you remember after just one listen. Its story telling structure about meeting a girl after a soundcheck is bluntly amusing from the get-go, and the oh so romantic line “I raced through soundcheck just to meet you on your fag break” was obviously a hit amongst teenage girls.
The track is made up of your classic riffs and rhythmic drums, however the sudden divert to a progressive bridge followed by a knock-out guitar solo gives the track a dynamic quality.
Slightly comedic in its lyrics, although not sure that was the intention. Definitely one you can appreciate a few times over, thanks to its catchy-ness.
9. Encore from The Balance (2019)
This track features on their latest album, and it carries a sense of maturity and professionalism to some of their other tunes.
It incorporates quite a reflective tone to the versus, though the chorus brings the loud, heavy sound that they’re known for.
Encore differs from their usual uplifting tone, making it an easy one to stand out.
8. 7 from The Ride (2016)
7 is a track that makes you want to listen again. The beat is catchy and repetitive – the good kind. It’s easy to find yourself bopping your head along to the dense beats entailed in this slow yet melodic tune.
The honest lyrics relating to the pressures of being in the busy music industry give it a layer of meaning, which of course we love to see.
7. Pacifier from The Balcony (2014)
Pacifier. What a memorable tune. The lyrics entail a conversation between Mccan and a presumed lover, his argument makes for an entertaining listen. It’s easy to remember the lyrics and scream them accordingly.
What makes this track though is the lush guitar riffs and fast beat from the drums, it’s an upbeat classic that radiates happiness, which is odd considering the inspiration is based on a lover’s tiff.
Pacifier is just one of many special tracks featuring on their debut, which set the tone for an impressive future in music.
6. Tyrants from The Balcony (2014)
Who ever said that all Catfish songs sound the same must have skipped Tyrants when listening to their debut album The Balcony.
This tune is certainly a progressive one, and differs to the signature cheerful tunes of Catfish. The fluctuation between strong vocals and powerful guitar melody creates a fairly intense sound – captivating in its nature.
The troubling lyrics that accompany this song – such as “it was rare to see you sober” and “your divine ribs would help break mine” – make Tyrants a distinctively emotive and deep track.
5. Read my Mind (cover) for triple j’s Like A Version
Now some might think this is cheating, but it’s too good not to make it into the top 10. A cover of The Killers’ Read My Mind featured on Australian radio station triple j, in a segment they call Like A Version – (a segment where bands cover songs of other bands live in their studio).
The clip, posted on YouTube, shows a young Van Mccan proving his vocal talent goes beyond the pre-recorded tracks of his albums. He wasn’t lying when, prior to the song, he said: “I just thought I’d strip it down and just do it for like, what it is, the bare of the song”.
An accidental mishap during the live performance causes Mccan to pause, and subsequently exclaim: “Ah I sang the wrong verse can I carry on? Does anyone mind me just carrying on like that? Live music, what the kids want? Okay let’s go”.
The personality and optimism in this video show a more innocent side of Mccan – with the impressive live performance being a bonus.
And his incorporation of Ignition by R.Kelly towards the end of the performance is a pleasant surprise that highlights Mccan’s fun, unpredictable persona.
4. Kathleen from The Balcony (2014)
One of the songs that fired Catfish straight into fame is Kathleen.
Amusingly, this songs’ confrontational vocals are what make it so relatable and enjoyable – it just invites you to sing along in hope that it provides some sort of relief.
Its energetic, catchy versus work perfectly with the noisy yet tuneful drum beat of the chorus – the repeated line “I’ve gotta give it to you, you give me problems, when you are not in the mood” – is something that most can identify with at some point or other.
Kathleen is a signature Catfish track, once you learn the words you’ll never forget them.
3. Cocoon from The Balcony (2014)
Similar to Kathleen, Cocoon is another signature song that you instantly recognise as being one of Catfish and the Bottlemen’s originals. Another classic sing along with loud drums and quick, catchy guitar riffs.
This track entails nostalgic and thoughtful lyrics from Mccan, including: “I remember when we, swapped names and I thought maybe, you’d stay and try to out drink me, your friends all hate it”.
This is about as romantic as it gets from Catfish. Songs like Cocoon are definitely popular amongst the generation of teenage girls, giving them all a glimmer of hope that one day they might just find themselves in the same (highly unlikely) scenario.
2. Mission from The Balance (2019)
This dynamic and powerful tune is one that needs to be played again, and again, and again.
It makes itself known from the first lyric; and the strong guitar riff carries the lyrics perfectly.
The star of this tune is, without a doubt, the chorus. The progressively quick, almost rushed deliverance of the chorus creates an unusual emotional effect – it’s something that isn’t present in the other tracks by the band.
The incorporation of varying pace and tempo make it a distinctive and mesmerizing tune.
Mission is a strangely beautiful, underrated track; however its one that needs to be listened to in order understood its depth and sincerity.
1. Fallout from The Balcony (2014)
Hands down the best track from Catfish, which never received the attention and admiration that it deserved, is Fallout.
This enthusiastic track is saturated with classic qualities – the lyrics are fun and easily memorable, the tune is rhythmic, catchy and upbeat, the melody is one that simply needs to be played loud and sang along to.
The first line – “I pissed you off again, so that you’d leave me alone in Leeds again” – gives an insight into the context of the tune.
For the most part, this tune is balanced and leisurely – which is justified thanks to the strong and highly satisfying finish.
The repeated verse that ends Fallout contains this writer’s favourite lyrics from any Catfish track – you can’t listen to these lyrics without feeling compelled to sing them with volume and passion:
“You see I, I was a test tube baby that’s why, nobody gets me, see I, struggle to sleep at night but it’s fine, she never lets me”.
The lyrics relate to the fact that Mccan was in fact a test tube baby. The feeling that “nobody gets me” is somewhat familiar to any fans who might fit into that “misfit” category. The meaningful deliverance of this short yet effective verse is extremely likeable – making Fallout a song that will always be undervalued.