I’d never actually heard of Catfish and the Bottlemen before my mate asked if I fancied wandering down to Brixton Academy to watch them. I called them up on youtube and watched the video for Hourglass, marvelling at how much the lead singer looked like Ewan McGregor, oh, it is Ewan McGregor. Loved the song though, so I listened to more, Pacifier, Cocoon, Business. I loved all of these as well. They are really good. Apparently the critics reviews have been mixed, but then, who listens to critics anyway? I’ve never really understood the point of them, it’s so subjective, if I was the only person in the world who loved a band, I would still buy their music and go to their shows, now that would be intimate. Anyhoo, here are a band who have a lot of emotion and energy, whose lyrics give away their youthful attitude (there are times when I can’t escape the feeling that they’ve just come straight from a smoke and a fumble behind the bike sheds) and who apparently sound like the Artic Monkeys and the Cribs to name but a couple.
So we got to the Academy just after half 8, queued up for 20 minutes for a pint of Tuborg, probably the worst lager in the world, and hustled half way down to the front, annoying some Welsh dude who looked like Jesus and seemed to have been standing in his spot since the doors opened and didn’t expect anyone to stand in front of him. We moved to the side. I looked around, I felt like I was in the middle of a school trip. “We are old enough to be everyone’s parents” I whispered to my mate, indeed the few people who we weren’t old enough to have fathered, were in fact the fathers of the ones we could have done. “We’re about twice the age of the band” he whispered back as they swaggered on stage to a rendition of Helter Skelter.
Opening with Rango, the crowd were rocking from the start. I couldn’t sing as I didn’t know the songs, but the crowd knew them, they sung them, they were on shoulders, looking around at their mates shouting and waving their arms. I jumped and clapped though, when the songs came on that I recognised, I got caught up in the infectious atmosphere as the odd pint of beer went arching overhead. Pacifier, Business and Kathleen were big songs, almost anthems, but it was Homesick that blew the roof off, the whole crowd (except me) sung the first verse with the band backing, and it was one of the loudest sing-along’s I have every heard, then the whole of Brixton Academy (including me) jumped to the chorus. There was an acoustic version of hourglass which I sung along to as I did to Cocoon, as they played their debut album, The Balcony, to a sold out audience at Brixton who knew every word.
Afterwards, as we streamed out into the mild Brixton night I couldn’t quite place how I felt, it was a great gig from a brilliant band but I had felt sort of detached. It wasn’t until this morning I realised that it’s because I didn’t know the songs. But not only that, while I was looking around at the kids around me, these songs had meanings for them already, and while I was a generation older, their love and energy took my back to my youth, going to gigs with groups of mates, singing along to songs that had impacted my life, had got me over an ex or soundtracked a holiday, and that’s what Catfish and the Bottlemen do so well, their short, sharp, punching songs will be tied to memories of their biggest fans for years to come, and that is the sign of a great album from a great band.