Review Summary: When you talk about nothing, you tend to lose me
Let’s just get one thing straight from the start. Catfish and the Bottlemen’s lead singer Van McCann is a woeful lyricist. You don’t really need to listen to their music to know this, seeing as McCann either thought up or went along with the name Catfish and the Bottlemen and wants us to all to believe that Van McCann is his real name. His abject lack of eloquence was laid bare on the first Catfish record, 2014’s tepid offering The Balcony
. It was an album featuring clean guitars, precision engineered hooks and enough cringeworthy lines to make Fred Durst blush. A more textbook example of landfill indie would be hard to find, and The Ride
has all the same pitfalls of its predecessor.
It doesn’t take long for the listener to notice that McCann hasn’t really come on much as a lyricist in the past couple of years. Opening track ‘7’ boasts the following chorus: ‘I never think through things, ‘cause I never get time, I don’t think things through’. This is, in no particular order, lazy, repetitive, devoid of meaning and grammatically offensive. I may not have been expecting much from this record, but a finished chorus to the first song would have been nice.
Lead single ‘Soundcheck’ isn’t a massive improvement. McCann kicks off with ‘Maybe I don’t act the way I used to, Because I don’t feel the same about you, In fact that’s a lie I want you’. I’d like to say something witty at this juncture, but that is totally ***. The rest of the song (and in fact the rest of the album for that matter) rambles on like a 14-year-old who isn’t particularly enjoying having to write poetry in an English lesson. There really isn’t a line anywhere that’s even decent, let alone memorable. If I was inclined to, I could pick out embarrassing lyrical excerpts from every song here seeing as the entire album is completely repetitive, tongue tied and incoherent.
To be fair, the band does a reasonable job of covering this up. The lyrics written down are far worse than they come across on the album, aided by the fact that McCann’s delivery isn’t half bad seeing as there is some passion involved. Musically, Catfish are completely unoriginal of course, sounding much like a lot of indie bands from the UK have sounded for the past decade or so. Nevertheless, it’s all done competently enough, and the band is certainly better at writing hooks than they are lyrics, something which has propelled The Ride
to the top of the UK album charts in what has to go down as another blow to Western civilisation.
It is possible, if what McCann has to say is completely ignored, to pass a pleasantish half hour listening to this record. Unfortunately for Catfish and the Bottlemen though, they bring nothing original to the table and McCann’s lyrics are simply intolerable. Plenty of bands can write a catchy hook, and it’s depressing that this seems to be the only criteria for success in modern rock music. At everything else, Catfish and the Bottlemen are dreadful, and it seems like they know it, sticking to their strength and not trying to do anything original or say anything interesting. The Ride
is one of the most insipid albums of the year.