For their second album The Ride, Catfish and the Bottlemen went with the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Coming off the massive success of their debut album The Balcony, the band tried to keep everything about The Ride as it was on The Balcony, even down to minor superficial details. Both albums have the same amount of tracks (eleven), similar album covers, one word track names, a number title (“26” on Balcony, “7” on Ride), and a song named after a girl (“Kathleen” on Balcony, “Emily” on Ride). Obviously this is no coincidence: frontman Van McCann stated before the album’s release that the band wanted the album to be as “in the box” as possible. Especially coming off such a wildly popular first release, it would be a tough call for Catfish and the Bottlemen to alienate their new fanbase and change up their sound so soon.
The Ride overall feels like an extension of The Balcony, though Ride is a bit more toned down compared to its predecessor. The Balcony was high energy and hedonistic, with gritty production that fit each song perfectly. The Ride still has the anthemic choruses and the song formula that made The Balcony so great (especially on lead single “Soundcheck”), but The Ride tends to play it safe a little too much. McCann’s songwriting shows some growth and maturity since the group’s last effort, as many of the songs are now focused on growing up and moving on from the wild days archived in The Balcony. Additionally, The Ride’s production, courtesy of megastar producer D Sardy, is much more polished when compared to the rest of the band’s work. But outside of these two areas of growth, The Ride shows Catfish and the Bottlemen trying to make lightning strike twice.
Much of The Ride is not as immediately memorable or remarkable as some of the signature Balcony tracks (“Kathleen”, “Rango”, “Cocoon”) and probably won’t reach that standard, even with time. But for what was promised by McCann early on, The Ride definitely delivers. The Ride is as “in the box” as a Catfish album can get. It shows some signs of growth while staying true to the elements that made The Balcony so great, and will definitely do well with fans, radio, and crowds alike. In a sense, it follows the career growth of the man that discovered the band in the first place. Catfish and the Bottlemen signed to Communion Records in 2013, the record label owned and operated by Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett. Mumford & Sons beat the daylights out of their original style for their first two albums and secured their spot as one of the biggest bands in the alternative scene before doing a complete 180 on their third album. After The Ride is over and it’s time for their next effort, Catfish will have worn their sound a bit thin. Hopefully they will follow in the steps of their discoverer, and use the security of their first two albums to experiment more on their next release.
The Ride will be available on Spotify starting June 10. Check out the rest of Catfish and the Bottlemen’s releases below!