Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Catfish And The Bottlemen Play On

Van MaCann
Hailing from the Welsh seaside township of Llandudno, Catfish and The Bottlemen have been busy in the United Kingdom. They've already earned considerable airtime on British radio. They've already played at festivals in Reading and Leeds. They supported Little Comets and The 1975 on a tour and recently headlined an abbreviated tour of their own.

It has taken some time, but their old-fashioned approach to the music industry is paying off. According to The Guardian, they played 100 shows in 18 months at solid venues. And with each and every show, their confidence as a band has grown along with hundreds and thousands of fans on both sides of the pond.

Better yet, the band has done all this without seeking a hipster pedigree of reviews and interviews. While they've agreed to a few here and there, they've mostly let their music do the talking — a deeply thought out garage rock sound. It's so thought out that the band readily rejected their first single.

A growling garage rock introduction. 

They originally recorded Homesick as a demo and the label felt it was strong enough to release it as their first single. While frontman Van MaCann didn't object, he is happier with the track on the EP.

The track is a stripped back confessional with a plunky guitar open that explodes into its chorus. The second verse changes its mix, powering up the quieter vocal introduction to tell a story about miscommunication and breakups. Throughout it all, MaCann displays a riveting confidence.

The lyrics, simply stated in a poetic staccato roll off effortlessly. "I got misled. Mistook. Discard," opens MaCann before the balance of the band — Billy Biddy (guitar), Benji Blakeway (bass), and Bob Hall (drums) — make an immediate impact with a composition that plants one foot in rock and the other in alternative.

The second video, a lyrical featuring random clips of early Ewan McGregor, earns the band a stunning cred for creativity beyond the music. The brilliance of the video is underscored by its rollicking instrumental whip.

The lyrics aren't nearly as wasted as some might think on the first pass. They work hard to lay down "Kathleen," a simpatico who lifts people up with a carefree attitude that quickly twists itself into a front. The subject of the song has both a dark side and the independent resolve to change it all.

The first EP released stateside includes Rango and Pacifier. Rango is the better of the two tracks, even if the bulk of it is much more straightforward than either Homesick or Kathleen. It too is a relationships-aren't-easy track about yet another girl. The highlight is the climatic finish, with its blistering reverb and fullness.

The last track, Pacifier, is the most radio-ready installation. It sounds solid and include ample push-pull boy-girl lyrics from MaCann, but without ever finding any ground to grind out as their own. It's worth a listen, but only after turning up and tuning into the other three. And then, even then, it leaves with a letdown in comparison.

Kathleen And The Other Three Roar Along 8.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

It's easy to be bullish about Catfish and The Bottlemen, one of several bands from United Kingdom that keep breathing new life into rock and roll. In this case, they play it right with just enough styling to make their own take on the music.

You can find Kathleen and the Other Three on Amazon or download the EP from iTunes. Also check out their newest single, Fallout, if you have a chance. The new single is as sharp as anything on the EP. For fans in the United States, there is five-track UK issue call The Beautiful Decay to check out too.

The band is currently touring in the United States before heading back to the United Kingdom in June. For tour dates, visit Facebook for the latest information.
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