Bell X1 - Flock

Clark Summers 27/03/2006

Rating: 4/5

Bell X1's third album “Flock” has already earned them a host of critical plaudits and a Number 1 in their native Ireland not to mention a sell out mini tour of the United States in 2005. The question now is “will their emotive and beguiling indie rock songs bring them the success they've long deserved in the UK?”Opener “Reacharound” throws the listener a bit of a curveball with its restless, snarling guitars setting it on collision course with the rather dream-like tone of the remainder of the album. The fact that it is followed by the disconcertingly upbeat “Flame” (which brings to mind mid-period Talking Heads) only serves to highlight this fact. The oddly titled “Rocky Took a Lover” is just one of a batch of similarly jaunty numbers that prove Bell X1 are certainly not the angst ridden, maudlin gloom rockers of legend. That's not to say everything is hunky dory and pop-tastic on “Flock” take the woozy “He Said She Said” for example which kicks off with the kind of eerie voodoo guitar line dEUS used to knock out for fun before exploding around the minute and a half mark with the kind of frantic bursts of guitar last heard on Radiohead's “Pablo Honey“.
To suggest Bell X1 are in thrall to Radiohead or Coldplay though as other reviewers have done in the past is to miss the subtle influences (new wave, west coast pop rock etc…) scattered throughout this record. While there's no doubting that the band are adept at churning out lush pop rock they're also equally au fait with how to write slow burn indie classics. “Natalie” is the prime example of the former, its glossy production and undeniably catchy tune marking it out as the potential breakthrough single for the band. While “Just Like Mr Benn” continues the band's tendency for oddly named songs and is the best example of the latter, its sedate feel and distinctly dreamy acoustic guitars lulling the listener into a near hypnotic state. Only epic closer “Lamposts” stands up to the Coldplay comparisons and even then it recalls a time when Chris Martin and co. weren't so keen on smothering everything in syrupy synths, its childlike glockenspiel and chiming guitars providing a fitting end to a fine album of radio friendly indie. Given some support from mainstream radio “Flock” could propel Bell X1 into the big-time. Only time will tell though if they join the equally impressive The Frames in relative obscurity or former bandmate Damien Rice at the top of the hit parade.