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Bell X1 - Flock

Bell X1, Flock

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

HAVING enjoyed deserved critical acclaim for their last album, Music In Mouth, which spawned the brilliant single, Tongue, Ireland’s Bell X1 go from strength to strength with the fantastic Flock.

Dubbed by many the Emerald Isle’s equivalent to Radiohead, thanks to Paul Noonan’s distinct vocals, the band are actually far more upbeat and a little more straightforward – not prone to as much artistic experimentation as their Oxford counterparts.

Flock is nevertheless a very diverse album, kicking off with the out-and-out rock of Reacharound, with its driving guitars, and finishing off with the aching Lamposts, a brilliant conclusion that carries a strong emotional punch.

In between are nine tracks of genuine worth – some outstanding, others merely impressive. It’s testament to the band’s growth that they now sound more comfortable with their sound and instrumentally much tighter.

What’s more, you don’t have to wait long to reach an album highlight. Third track, Rocky Took A Lover unfolds amidst a whirlwind of lush melodies and a really nice vocal style that will have you singing along from about the second or third listen. It’s an epic track, layered with excellent instruments, from acoustic guitars to chiming electronics, and it maintains a warm glow despite some bittersweet lyrics.

Bad Skin Day is another strong effort, built around some crashing symbals and a really addictive guitar riff that provide an excellent backdrop for Noonan’s intelligent lyrics. It’s a tale of vanity (‘Oh Christ, I’m such a drama queen on a bad skin day’) that also talks of a departed love (‘you’re far from me’). As ever, the band display a genuine ability to conjure a memorable chorus that thrives because of some interesting instrumental variations.

Next track, Natalie continues the impressive form, especially since Noonan’s vocals veer into the throaty, foreboding style of Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder (though more upbeat). The track contains another strong chorus and benefits from a little vocal layering from the rest of the band.

The brilliantly named Just Like Mr Benn is another compulsive effort, kicking off with the wonderful lyric ‘put your sweet fingers a little closer to the keyboard’. It’s a slow-builder that’s distinctly bittersweet but effortlessly beautiful and one of several that you just want to keep revisiting.

My First Born For A Song thrives on some excellent piano chords, just to mix up the guitar sound a little more, while Trampoline is infused with some great guitar riffs and the sort of pounding drum beat that Doves frequently employ so well.

Which brings us to the mesmerising final track, Lampost, a melancholy lament about a difficult relationship – in this case hurting someone you love rather than letting them go. The aching lyrics include such priceless gems as ‘I’ve been walking you into those lamposts again, I’d rather do that than let go of your hand?’ But it’s a beautiful record that succeeds in ending the album on a high.

Bell X1 fans will doubtless say ‘we told you so’ when the plaudits rain down upon Flock – but this really is a long-player that’s not to be missed.

Click here to find out more about Bell X1!

Track listing:

  1. Reacharound
  2. Flame
  3. Rocky Took A Lover
  4. He Said She Said
  5. Bad Skin Day
  6. Natalie
  7. Bigger Than Me
  8. Just Like Mr Benn
  9. My First Born For A Song
  10. Trampoline
  11. Lamposts

  1. good review, but arent Radiohead from Oxford?

    They are indeed and this has been corrected! matt    Feb 7    #
  2. We rock

    Bellies    Feb 16    #