Catfish And The Bottlemen have gotten me through some tough times — including love and the loss of it. Singer Van McCann’s angsty, alcoholic love songs for post-punk revivalists have made their way over the airwaves, across the pond and into our hearts for about two years now. Riding the high of their May release The Ride, the Bottlemen stopped at the 9:30 Club in Washington a few weeks ago for one of the last stops before they head back to the United Kingdom to finish out the month.
The band’s biting guitars and McCann’s raucous voice were met by the shouts of audience members. The band has an odd dynamic with their listeners. The crowd is a lot of fangirls, screaming for the group as if they were your typical boyband à la One Direction.
But while some of the standard boyband themes are there, don’t be mistaken. They are not your typical boyband.
McCann’s lyrics reek of cigarettes and slur as if through drunken binges, and that’s what sets the group apart. Its modernization of punk rock recognizes the group’s musical roots — heavy guitars and wild performances — but slows the pace down to something more palatable to the masses. Catchy choruses and McCann’s fuck-it attitude on tracks such as “7” and “Cocoon” weave themselves into distortion and grunge, with the end product somewhere between Johnny Marr and early Fall Out Boy.
Sharp solos cut through the mix, standing out from the background noise. Guitarist Johnny Bond’s work stands out in the song “Soundcheck,” and the energy and emotion the band puts into its work shines in moments like those.
The band played work from both of its albums, The Ride and The Balcony. The old-but-new sound on these releases seemed to affect listeners of all ages the same, as demonstrated by the 30-something by me who sang along to every word, bouncing up and down with as much energy as the 18-year-olds I saw in the front of the crowd.
Closing in reverse fashion, the last song Catfish and the Bottlemen played was “Tyrants,” the first song McCann ever wrote — and with it, a bitter tale of a post-show hookup ends in a raucous wall of noise, ending the night on a high.