When you grow up listening to the likes of Oasis, Blur, Arctic Monkeys, The Libertines, and Kasabian – I imagine it’s hard to not recreate them, knowingly or not. In fact, the entirety of The Balcony feels like The Kooks decided to get a little bit angsty, distort the guitars, and talk exclusively about being drunk and having sex; though McCann’s accent has nothing on Pritchard’s. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, influence can produce greatness, but it needs to be influence, not replication, just look at The Strokes and then how the Arctic Monkeys built on it. You can’t help but feel that the whole album is stuck in 2005 though. It feels 10 years too late.
The Balcony kicks off with Homesick, which gives us a taste of what’s to come – but unfortunately, the rest of the album tastes all the same, or at least, extremely similar. With the exception of maybe Hourglass, an acoustic ode to the loneliness of Van’s girlfriend whilst he’s on tour, there’s never really a break from the scathing, distorted guitar riffs, the crashing drums, and shouted vocals. The instrumentation is undoubtedly tight, and does sound good, but comes off as overproduced at times, despite the Lo-Fi aesthetic they were obviously going for in the vein of the Arctic Monkeys’ 2006 debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.
The lyrics don’t really tackle any major issues, or cover a wide array of topics; they’re memorable, catchy, and easy to sing along to, with the occasional “fuck” thrown in to keep up that image of edginess. That being said though, there are moments where you can see McCann’s lyricism shine, showing that underneath the hard edge, there’s some talented songwriting waiting to flourish. There’s some solid tracks throughout the album, with things like Kathleen, Pacifier, Cocoon, and Business, though the album does taper off towards the end – 26, Rango, and Sidewinder are all fairly forgettable.
The Balcony’s biggest issue is it’s just too much of the same, and perhaps the most annoying part of it all, is that there’s so much potential in these four Welsh lads, that they just don’t seem to have found. It’s a damn fun, and massively enjoyable album, but it struggles to be anything truly impressive or innovative. Once they drop the hard act, get up to date, and Van sits down to write some proper lyrics; there’s the making of something great. Catfish and the Bottlemen are worth keeping an eye on, as their sophomore album will be very interesting indeed.
– Kieran Griffiths