Single Review / Soundcheck – Catfish and the Bottlemen

It has been two years of touring The Balcony, being nominated for awards (including British Breakthrough at the BRITS) and being heralded in the press (ahem, NME anyone?). However, we’ve finally been gifted with new music from Welsh rockers, Catfish and the Bottlemen. ‘Soundcheck’ premiered as Annie Mac’s ‘Hottest Record in the World’ on Monday, and the results were surprising.

Van McCann himself said that when recording the entire second album that ‘…there was no discussion about what we were gonna do… [The Balconywas the support act, this was like the headliner’, and this is partially evident in the new track. Their first album is immensely popular, with all eleven tracks being touted as fan favourites due to their super accessible lyrics and catchy riffs, and ‘Soundcheck’ attempts to follow in those footsteps.

Immediately the track sounds American pop punk-inspired, elements of garage rock melodies seeping through as lead vocalist Van McCann sings of racing ‘through soundcheck / just to meet you / and you convinced me to put life aside, and want you’. The single sounds much more grown up in some ways from the young band, with less thrashing about with a guitar being a notable side effect, which in some ways was an appeal of their debut – they were fresh and a bit more edgy. The Balcony  was rough but it worked. ‘Soundcheck’ still ticks a lot of these boxes, and it has a catchy as heck chorus that’ll no doubt be chanted back in stadiums in no time at all, but it seems to lack a certain ‘something’ that can be found on some of their better tracks like ‘Homesick’ or ‘Rango’.

There are several Catfish staples running through ‘Soundcheck’, with the building crescendo of a bridge, Van’s soaring vocals in the chorus, and that solo from guitarist Johnny Bond that I can already hear making waves in sold out tour venues across the country. The solo sounds like a more radio friendly ‘Tyrants’ that I am sure will come into its own once played live – a live stage is where Catfish really excel as a musical outfit. The lyrics are a tad repetitive and perhaps also a tad subdued compared to their earlier singles, Van McCann repeatedly exclaiming, ‘I wanted everything at once / until you blew me out my mind / now I don’t need nothing’, however this is sure to be another smash for the band.

The single has already faced differing opinions on social media, and while many fans have touted the song as their next hit, others are wondering why they have gone on to become a “shit Mumford and Sons” in time for the next album. For many who were hoping to hear ‘7’, a track the band debuted on their last academy tour, it is unclear whether that will be a single or album track in the future but we can only hope, as it was a wonderful example of their evolution as a band. In my opinion, ‘Soundcheck’ is a grower, and I enjoy it more and more upon each listen, however I will be honest: it didn’t taken me long after its premiere to revisit The Balcony and its surefire gems. I guess the wait is on to hear what The Balcony 2.0 (perhaps don’t call it that, boys) will sound like, but we should be able to listen just before summer due to their BRITS nomination bringing the date forward. 

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[Originally written for Redbrick Music]

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