Under Review: Bell X1 – Bloodless Coup

Ever since they traversed the great divide that is the mighty Atlantic, moody Irish pop combo Bell X1 has made gentle routes inland. Originally touted as the former bandmates of singer-songwriter Damien Rice, Bell X1 have since proven themselves to be much more than also-rans.  Their international debut, Flock, came with two albums’ worth of experience behind it, and succeeded in launching the group to the global stage. That album’s follow-up, Blue Lights On The Runway, saw the group embracing a more immediate pop sound, even though a good portion of the set consisted of their sweeping dramatic ballads. With Bloodless Coup, Bell X1 find a calm middle ground between the rousing new wave of Blue Lights and the shimmering bliss of Flock.

If Bell X1’s music has one feature that defines the group’s character, it’s singer Paul Noonan’s casual delivery of his lyrics. There’s a kind of wonder in his vocal style, as if he glanced up from his book to find that New York City had sprung up around him. In fact, this sensation is alluded to in “Sugar High,” one of Bloodless Coup’s finest moments. Noonan has a knack for packing sly references to pop culture into his songs, mentioning Adam & The Ants, McDonalds’ salads and Jim’ll Fix It, all in the same song (“4 Minute Mile”). In “Velcro,” one of the album’s early highlights, Noonan recalls “Watching a six-year-old on YouTube, playing drums to ‘Billie Jean’” as if it were a treasured childhood memory. To Bell X1, the present is constantly feeding the past, and the future is something that quietly creeps in around us.

Musically, Bloodless Coup boasts a fair amount of hooks, but the songs don’t demand attention in the way Blue Lights On The Runway’s rockers did. Instead, we get the lilting opener “Hey Anna Lena” and the heretical “The Trailing Skirts Of God,” in which Noonan describes his distancing himself from religion. The stories contained within Bloodless Coup are presented earnestly enough that they could be easily interpreted as autobiographical, yet there’s a universality about them that makes every moment very instantly relatable. It’s taken a few years for Bell X1 to warm up to a wider audience, but it appears as though the greater interest has in turn brought out the best in them.

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~ by E. on April 22, 2011.

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