Thursday, April 7, 2011

New album review: Bell XI

Bell X1
Bloodless Coup
(Yep Roc)
Grade: B+

This Irish alt-pop band is massively popular back home, where its albums debut atop the charts and concerts instantly sell out. Here, Bell X1 has a burgeoning fan base, lands frequent TV song placements and is a regular fixture on National Public Radio. Recently expanded to a quintet, the Dubliners incorporate more electronic music textures than ever on solid fifth album Bloodless Coup.

Twitchy beats launch “Hey Anna Lena” before singer Paul Noonan’s heavenly falsetto vocal enters amid dense instrumentation swells. Half the tracks are geared toward the dance floor. Drummer Rory Doyle brings some funk, especially in conjunction with the looped vocal refrain of “4 Minute Mile.” Slinky, electro-tinged “Safer Than Love” is a nod to early Gary Numan.

Insanely catchy “Sugar High” adeptly utilizes percolating beats, vocoder and a giddy melodica line that recalls Howard Jones’ “New Song.” Then there’s the uplifting, spacey “Velcro,” about unusual tour experiences. Noonan’s lyrics touch upon soul searching, shared human experiences and rising above it all (the simpler, introspective “Nightwatchmen,” “74 Swans,” “Built to Last”). He also uses offbeat humor like few others, making pop culture references to Dairy Queen, Adam & the Ants, McDonald’s salads, YouTube talents and more.

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