Catfish and the Bottlemen have little name recognition west of the Atlantic, a British blue-collar rock band yearning for global fame. We’ve all heard this tale before, a young band rising from the obscurity of British pubs to international indie rock notoriety. Singer Van McCann makes no qualms about their slick plainspoken, streetwise rock or the band’s aspirations to be like Oasis or Kings of Leon, arena-rock legends.
To match their lofty goals, much of their sophomore album The Ride, is centered around achieving that singular song that defines Catfish and the Bottlemen as a noteworthy name in the canon of British rock.
Catfish and the Bottlemen’s sound and style mirrors their debut album from two years ago, The Balcony, with little variance. Though the songs feel charged with the task of filling a bigger space and higher billing, preferably that of Wembley Stadium or the Air Canada Centre.
Throughout The Ride, choruses are built on a massive scale as if thirsty for an anthemic McCann-led sing-a-long. Yet over the course of an album loaded to precision-laid hooks and snappy songwriting, McCann and company get lost in their own overtures to rock greatness.
Guitar-driven choruses easily blend into one another by the end of the record. While on “Heathrow,” a slow-tempo track on the album’s backend comes eerily close to Oasis circa (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
Much of The Ride feels too calculated to enjoy itself in the moment. Though the songs are snappy and infectiously energetic, they lack the wit and reckless abandon of Matt Healy and The 1975’s ambitious pop/rock or jaunty dancefloor anthems of the Arctic Monkeys.
That’s not to say McCann’s songwriting isn’t sincere or impressive as the charming pluck of acoustic strummer “Glasgow,” highlights. The choruses of “Twice” and “Postpone” are thrilling in the moment, but are quickly forgotten. Catfish and the Bottlemen are at times fun and self-assured, not concerned with showmanship or being more than a rugged English rock band. But that quickly wears thin with little to show for it.
For all McCann’s posturing to be the next in line for British rock royalty, they lack a defining song like a “Wonderwall,” “Sex on Fire” or “I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor.” Instead relying on slick, polished plainspoken rock for McCann led sing-a-longs that settle for being just okay.