Perfectly solid, as all albums should be
Returning after their 2016 sophomore release The Ride, Catfish and the Bottlemen have unveiled The Balance. The album is eleven songs, only one of which is an interlude, and each one staying under the four-minute mark, yet stretching time either by frontman McCann’s strong vocals or by puppeteering with the tempos (especially in “Mission”). Not many of these tunes are power players, but damn near each one is solidly constructed, performed, and produced, and that’s a wonderful gift from a band that keeps rock’n’roll alive.
The Balance sees the band exploring different areas/sub-genres of rock music, to almost consistent success but less consistent enjoyment for its fans, though not drastically less. The punk sound they achieve in “Basically” feels at home with Green Day, but it’s one of the weaker vocal numbers. The conversational delivery of “basically I do this all the time,” feels like someone admitting that they are not a saint but in fact someone who has some bad habits; more relatable than we want it to be. The simple guitar part in “Sidetrack” feels not quite beachy, but Californian, coated in relaxation, without sounding like it’s leeching off Sublime. A calmer moment in the album, one that makes the louder, more energetic parts feel in place, as opposed to just sonic tirades played to a nonexistent audience.
“Sidetrack” is one of several that doesn’t dazzle but also doesn’t do anything negative within the song itself or for the album overall. Others that fall in here are “Longshot,” the opener, “Fluctuate,” pushed along by comfortable drums, “Encore,” which has great vocals by McCann and “Coincide,” which has trouble staying remembered. “Intermission,” the interlude-length tune, feels experimental with the guitar sounds we hear in its first half, causing us to wonder if it’s going to be controlled ambiance, but then some vocals walk into the frame for only a moment before the next song begins. A classic case of “wishing it weren’t so short.”
Perhaps easy to miss on a first listen, the sleeper hit of The Balance is “Conversation.” This lyrical king coasts into the chorus with “You should know how it feels/ when the perfect conversation looks you in the eyes.” Oh man, that just dive-bombs right to the heart. This wildly sparks the imagination, whether it’s remembering a personal perfect conversation one that happened on screen or one that a friend had. McCann’s delivery makes it seem like he could be unaware of the perfection of the conversation, which is even more powerful. Other lyrics sprout up here and there, but that chorus is a champ. “Overlap” and “Mission” are surprisingly catchy and worthy of note, the latter tune boasting a number of time changes that prevent it from being easily danced to. And the best one here is “2all,” a through-and-through quality song with a timeless chorus. It’s vulnerable, insecure and perhaps the most relatable song on the album.
The Balance is undoubtedly worth the listen and love. Give it a spin and “give [your] love 2all the ones that stuck around.”