First Take: Catfish and The Bottlemen – ‘Showtime’

A drab and uninspired return...

Catfish and The Bottlemen have always been an easy target. An indie band in an era that hasn’t been kind to indie bands, their preposterous name and unashamed appetite for obvious – if fan-pleasing – guitar anthemic hasn’t exactly made them critical darlings. Hailing from Wales equally gave them an uphill struggle from the off, with the UK music industry remaining stubbornly London-focussed.

The band’s splintering saw Catfish slide away from festival line-ups, the future of the band surrounded by mystery. If Wikipedia is to be believed – and to be honest, it’s our primary source of information on most topics – only two members remain, frontman Van McCann and bass stalwart Benji Blakeway.

Somehow, those two musicians are going to re-assemble Bottlemen 2.0 to headline Reading and Leeds this summer – a daunting task, but it’s there, on the schedule. Go and read it, if you don’t believe us.

A band with colossal popularity, Catfish and the Bottlemen started teasing their return earlier this week, with one Instagram post alone receiving more than 100,000 likes in under 24 hours. By any metric, that’s an imposing fanbase.

A few moments ago, Catfish and the Bottlemen ended the lengthy wait for new material. Out now, new single ‘Showtime’ is their first song in five years, the moment when the enigma is torn away, and the band’s second chapter begins.

In our eyes, though, it’s a bit of a dude. In terms of chutzpah, it contains confidence in spaces, yet much of it is misguided. Unoriginal and a bit of a slog, ‘Showtime’ fails to raise the pulse, containing the feeling of someone scrambling around a darkened room, attempting to find a light switch.

Constructed in Los Angeles with produce Dave Sardy, even the lyric sheet sounds tired, with Van McCann opining in the opening line: “Back to the grind again…”

While the song purrs “no other place I’d rather reset…” it doesn’t feel like a group wiping the slate clean – rather, it’s a stumbling reincarnation of past glories.

Not that this verdict is likely to stop them. Catfish and the Bottlemen have always existed outwith critical circles, a band for whom fashion is something other people do. We’ve got copy to file – and they’ve got a castle to fill.

Our verdict? 4/10

Tune in now.

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.