Just under half of 2016 has passed by already and we have already witnessed the arrival of a number of much discussed albums, from the endlessly hyped The Life of Pablo to the lightning fast appearance of A Moon Shaped Pool. Whether these albums have been mainly promoted by the artists themselves in Kanye West’s case or eagerly awaited and anticipated by critics as for Radiohead, there has not been a release in recent memory that relied so heavily on the eagerness of the fans of a band’s debut album, despite little critical success, than Catfish and the Bottlemen’s The Ride.
Almost completely dismissed by critics in 2014, The Balcony defied all odds and found a large audience due to its undeniable likeability and Catfish and the Bottlemen rose in popularity at a phenomenal rate. Less than two years on, Catfish and the Bottlemen have amassed an unprecedented following and prepare for yet another busy festival season and bring with them their much anticipated second album. Of course as previously mentioned, this album as not arrived without excessive speculation, optimistic and pessimistic alike, but when listening to this album I felt it was important to put all that aside and have as much of an untainted viewpoint as possible.
Surprisingly, that was not too hard to achieve. As album opener 7 comes and goes, it becomes clear this album is exactly what it promised to be, which is another 10 or so Catfish and the Bottlemen songs. Nothing more, nothing less. There is little evidence of any progression in their sound which is strange for a band that have experienced so much growth in popularity since their debut. There is nothing to distinguish any track on this from one on their debut except a slight depreciation in quality and character. To their credit, Catfish and the Bottlemen have never professed to be anything more than they are and sometimes you have to wonder if their reputation exceeds them, but the impression gained from The Ride is that they don’t mind relying on it.
Instead of trying to earn all the praise and hype they receive, they have banked on it to carry them to more success despite playing it unforgivably safe on this album. They have no intention on winning over their critics, they are happy to keep churning out crowd pleasing sing-alongs that people can sing along to drunkenly at festivals. It is incredibly unfortunate to see such a waste of potential from what could have been a pivotal moment from Catfish and the Bottlemen.
With all that said, The Ride is hard to completely hate, it’s just not as shamelessly enjoyable as its predecessor. As mentioned beforehand, it is nothing new but if you found some enjoyment in listening to The Balcony from time to time, you’ll likely feel similarly about The Ride. Likewise, if you completely could not stand the first album you aren’t going to like this one much either and vice versa if you loved The Balcony.
To put it simply, The Ride is no new chapter for Catfish and the Bottlemen but merely a collection of new songs their fans can sing back every word as they continue to tour extensively and climb festival line-ups. It does nothing to justify their success but does nothing to jeopardise it either. It is exactly the record they intended it be.
-Ethian Woodford (@human_dis4ster)