Following a successful stint at Falls Festival this year, Welsh indie rockers Catfish and The Bottlemen are returning down under for Splendour in the Grass and a bunch of sideshows in July. And what better way to celebrate than to squabble over our top 10 favourite songs and argue why my choices are right and yours are wrong (and vice versa). Plus, after dropping their new record The Balance in April, there are a bunch of fresh tunes to add to the fray.
So whether you’re curating your Splendour playlist or consider yourself a seasoned Catfish connoisseur, here are 10 essential tracks for every Catfish and The Bottlemen fan.
Longshot, The Balance (2019)
‘Longshot’ is a charismatic anthem all about resilience, overcoming differences and the longshots that pay off. One of the first singles from The Balance, it’s a nostalgic and retrospective song that gives the boys the chance to reflect on how far they’ve come. The chorus is catchy as hell and it follows the upbeat indie rock formula we’ve come to know and love from the quartet.
The music video that accompanies the tune is equally as beautiful. Encapsulated in one, seamless shot, the black and white footage follows the boys as they strut, perform and drive along a rugged coastline. And just like the song, it’s simple yet captivating.
Kathleen, The Balcony (2014)
Always a fan favourite, no Catfish and the Bottlemen essential tracks list is complete without our gal ‘Kathleen’. It’s inspired by that one intoxicatingly alluring lady friend that everyone has in their lives. Frontman Van McCann once told Rolling Stone that “Kathleen is the reason you start drinking. She’s the one you call at three in the morning despite knowing she’s the reason you went out drinking in the first place.”
From soulful laments to raspier growls, it showcases the breadth of McCann’s vocal ability. It’s arguably their most popular tune, so it’s bound to have a well-earned spot on the boys’ upcoming Splendour and sideshow set lists.
7, The Ride (2016)
One of the standout tracks from their 2016 record The Ride, ‘7’ speaks of the tumultuous nature of touring and managing relationships across time zones. Especially when you’re 7 hours behind, to be exact: “Forget the time ’cause I’m seven hours behind. It’s probably good I didn’t call, though. But I always want to.”
While the ‘poor little rock star’ cliché can get old real fast, McCann also uses the song to sing of the lesser discussed reality of getting comfortable with solitary life on the road. “And I love you but I need another year alone,” he sings.
Cocoon, The Balcony (2014)
‘Cocoon’ was written while McCann was living in New York. To set the scene, it was penned while soaking in the view of the iconic skyline from the balcony (which ended up inspiring the record’s namesake). The song itself is about protecting a relationship from meddling outsiders and you can hear the mixture of desperation and frustration in his delivery. “But fuck it if they talk. Fuck it if they try and get to us, ’cause I’d rather go blind than let you down,” he sings on the chorus. Created during a vulnerable time in his life, it’s one of the grittier moments on the album.
Soundcheck, The Ride (2016)
The lead single from 2016’s The Ride is yet another classic Catfish and the Bottlemen hit where the boys opt for realism over concept. At its core, the song is about feeling so loved up that you’re ready to drop everything. “I raced through soundcheck just to meet you on your fag break and you convinced me to put life aside and want you,” McCann sings. Between the heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics, danceable melodies and the solid guitar solo in the bridge, it’s just a damn good tune.
Pacifier, The Balcony (2014)
‘Pacifier’ is apparently the quartet’s answer to surf rock. To be fair, it’s probably more The Killers than the Beach Boys but it does the job. It’s another throwback from their 2014 album The Balcony, but it has always oozed a nostalgic feel. The driving guitar riff and glittering cymbals are subtly paired with what McCann has described as negative lyrics about bust ups with a mate. The song also boasts one of the band’s best music video concepts, in which they find themselves in a football-based Fight Club.
2all, The Balance (2019)
My personal favourite from The Balance, 2all is a love letter to the fans. Lyrically it’s saying that despite all of the bullshit, the boys know they have the unwavering loyalty of their fervent following to fall back on. Aw, bless. My sentimental streak aside, the chorus is undeniably infectious and the lush guitar solo in the bridge make all of our indie rock dreams come true. Swelling up with a soft verse, it’s probably a more polished product than we’d usually expect from the quartet.
Rango, The Balcony (2014)
Opening with crooning vocals and a wave of electric guitar, ‘Rango’ is the kind of song that immediately drags you under before it eases you into the first verse. Another belter from their debut, the song was McCann’s attempt to win back his first girlfriend. A younger McCann sings of the temptation to ditch his hometown and leave everyone behind, with the exception of “you”. Between the tortured lyrics and fuzzy guitar riffs, it’s another classic Catfish (although often overlooked) number.
Glasgow, The Ride (2016)
‘Glasgow’ is beautifully stripped back. Opening with finger-picked acoustic guitar and bare vocals, it’s a fresh departure from the heavily produced guitars, forceful drums and stacked harmonies that we’d usually hear from Catfish. While some may cast this off as boring, I think it’s a gasp of fresh air in a sea of otherwise mid-tempo indie rock that is the rest of the track list on The Ride. “When you wrap me around your fingers baby and you make me do that shit I never do,” McCann croons.
Hourglass, The Balcony (2014)
Another acoustic gem, ‘Hourglass’ holds a short but sweet spot on their debut record. It’s the perfect example of McCann’s simplistic but sometimes brazen writing technique. The lyrics range between “I have dreams of you fucking me all the time,” on the first verse to “I’m so impatient when you’re not mine and I just want to catch up on the lost times.” Paired with euphoric riffs and heavenly harmonies, it’s an indie love song at its best. The music video is also easily of their finest, featuring Ewan McGregor playing the role of the scorned songwriter. It’s also my brother’s favourite Catfish and the Bottlemen song, so I could hardly leave it off the list.
Catfish And The Bottlemen return to Australia this July for Splendour in the Grass and a handful of headline sideshows. Their new album, The Balance, is out now.