When Catfish and the Bottlemen dropped debut LP “The Balcony” in 2015, the Welsh quartet earned praise for merging indie-icon influences like the Kooks and Oasis with energetic choruses and industrious production. The group wasn’t particularly meditative or even remotely modish, but it had moxie. It’s dismaying to see that fire doused throughout “The Ride,” a sophomore record that does Catfish few favors in exposing its limited lyrical scope (mostly concerned with lost lovers) and tedious reliance on shoehorned guitar solos and uniform drum lines. A record that should progress the band’s sound instead makes it clear that Catfish isn’t inspired by early-aughts garage-rockers so much as slavishly devoted to appropriating their aesthetic. There are no hook-heavy anthems like “Kathleen” this time; the closest “The Ride” gets is the deafening, dull “Soundcheck,” a passable headbanger knee-capped by banal writing. On “Emily,” Catfish employs a softer melodic charm. But it’s an exception on an album that spins its wheels when it should be stepping on the gas.
ESSENTIAL “Emily”Isaac Feldberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @I_Feldberg.