Bloodless Coup - Bell X1 Album Review
Blimey, 'Bloodless Coup' is a bit of a gear change from what Bell X1 have dabbled in before. With electric beats, squelches and strong underpinning bass a la Radiohead, 'Hey Anna Lena' opens with a delicate piano line that pauses when the vocals initially enter. It's a different vibe to their guitar-led previous material but maintains the same tranquil, laid back pace with gentle hints of guitar subtly shading the background during the opening half of the track before it builds into a much fuller sound with more active drums, layers of synths and guitars and a delicate rumbling of cello, which accompany the vocals. At least with the opening track to Bloodless Coup, Bell X1 have finally got some conviction and guts!
'Velcro' has a pounding, synth-led introduction which still maintains a characteristic delicacy, then the track builds layer by layer over the drums and bass that anchor it. A powerful chorus then crashes from the throbbing toms of the pre-chorus, proving that Bell X1 have shaken off the bland, samey tendency of their previous guitar blend and replaced it with variety. The band also somehow make the phrase 'I'll be your Velcro' sound lush and romantic, and, following a breakdown towards the tracks' close, builds back with layers of precise soothing vocal harmonies, something reminiscent of Snow Patrol with more synths, that then concludes with a funky dance groove. In another change of pace, 'Nightwatchmen' opens with low-pitched solo guitar which has the same kind of pitch and tone to Foo Fighters' 'Everlong'; this tone continues to accompany the beautiful, smooth, Tom McRae-esque vocals. Back to the electronic pops and squelches and delicate piano of the opening, 'Sugar High' has a heavily studio-produced electronic feel until around one and a half minutes in when the track kicks into a much fuller sound with pounding drums and bass through layers of interweaving synths, even hints of vocoder. Bell X1 prove themselves as a more experimental band than their former selves, and the fuller instrumental chorus towards the close of the track shows a much stronger musical personality and confidence.
The over five minute long mid-point of the album, 'Built To Last', opens with the low-pitched throb of a bass drum which is then joined by synth bass heralding what sounds like the beginning of a pounding dance track, until the picked acoustic guitar enters. There's a folky, singer-songwriter vibe laid over this pounding dance vibe with gentle suggestions of sweeping synths adding another layer through the chorus and before toms, piano and another layer of guitar further build the texture. 'Four Minute Mile' is then another track over five minutes long, though unfortunately boring; the track opens with beats and low fuzz that almost suggest the anticipation of the opening of a dubstep track, but then kicks into a multi-layered jam and eventually a more swaggering song with a fuzzy, distorted vocal chorus. '4 Minute Mile' showcases several personalities in the same track, and interesting songwriting when the lyrics are listened to more intently; '...I'd never have a salad at McDonalds...' and '...I never draw anything but stickmen...'.
Whilst 'Safer Than Love' sounds synth layers reminiscent of the likes of Heaven 17 or similar, through a slow burning, disappointingly bland attempt, 'The Trailing Skirts Of God' contrasts as a strummed nylon-strung acoustic accompanied gentle folk ballad. Its chorus has gentle piano chords before a fuller folk band sound led by gentle piano melody pushes the track forward into a more heartfelt, emotional, blend a la Music In Mouth era Bell X1. An almost hip hop drum groove opens penultimate track 'Haloumi' with odd gestures of guitar and twinkling, Theremin-like synth, and definitely aspiring at the weirdness of a Yorke/ Radiohead feel which continues throughout with 'squeak like haloumi' seriously the lyrics!
An inconsistent effort but most certainly proves that Bell X1 have made considerable pace from their bland, samey beginnings.
- Thu 4th Jul 2013 Live at the Marquee, Bell X1Marquee (Cork)Buy Tickets
- Sat 13th Jul 2013 Bell X1Iveagh Gardens (Dublin)Buy Tickets
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