CD: Catfish and the Bottlemen - The Balance: Manufactured rock at its blandest
Indie-rock sure ain't what it used to be. These days boys-with-guitars sound no less manufactured than actual boy bands. And, of all these generic outfits, few appear to have less musical substance than Welsh four-piece Catfish and the Bottlemen.
The Balance, the Llandudno bands' third LP, is pure indie-by-numbers. It's full of chugging guitars with angsty vocals sung in a regional accent. Occasionally everything goes quiet before bursting into a massive chorus. It's as the band has sat down and tried to recreate the essence of Kasabian and Arctic Monkeys.
The problem is more than just going heavy on the influences. It's what's happened to the band's own musical personality. This is now so dilute it's practically homeopathic. The boys have sacrificed every ounce of character on the altar of radio-friendliness. What's left is a non-offensive musical product masquerading as something gritty.
Half the songs sound like any number of other bands, the others just sound the same. They have similar one-word titles, the same rhythms, and lyrics that sound like they mean something but don't. The only real outlier is an atmospheric little number called "Intermission", which also has the added advantage of being mercifully short.
The best track - although it's all relative - is "2All". The song manages to rise above the others by attempting the exuberance of their earlier hit "Kathleen". It's formulaic of course - simple verses building up to invigorating choruses - but pretty well executed. It reminds you why Catfish rose to prominence in the first place. There used to be a lightness to Van McCann's anthems. Now that's more or less gone, there little left to enjoy