Album review

Bell X1 : Music In Mouth
Universal Island Records

Bell X1 : Music In MouthIrish four-piece Bell X1 have been playing together in one form or another for over ten years. Previously a five-piece known as Juniper - the fifth member being the now solo Damien Rice - their time together has seen them supporting such luminaries as Elliott Smith, Tom McRae and, um, Bon Jovi. New album Music In Mouth is the band's second, but their first to be released in the UK.

On first hearing Music In Mouth, it comes across as a surprisingly accomplished effort for a band still technically in its infancy. Opening track, and highlight of the album, Snakes & Snakes sets the scene for most of the other songs - a clever idea with a quirky slant and a jauntily infectious, Travis-esque melody running through it.
    This is an album rich in imagery and wit, particularly evident within tracks such as West of Her Spine and I'll See Your Heart And Raise You Mine. Lead singer Paul Noonan has been quoted as saying "The ability to make banality seem joyful is a great skill," and it's clear that this attitude is prominent in the band's approach to their songs. In fact, it's the songs on the album that have that angle of joy and humour to them that work the best. The few instances where that is not the case tend to come across as somewhat unconvincing and, well . . . banal.

There are undertones throughout the album of Irish folk, Paul Simon, Crowded House, Travis, early Beck, Radiohead . . . lots of similarities, but no real obvious influences. Herein lies Bell X1's main problem: Whilst they should not be trying to be derivative, it's almost as if there are too many ideas here and it's difficult to pin-point Bell X1's true identity. Individually, most of the tracks on the album are well crafted, intelligent songs that are full of warmth. As a whole however, there's almost a sense that the band had too many ideas and tried to fit them all onto one album. This is possibly a sign of the length of time the band have been together compared to their relatively small back catalogue, and the result is the impression that they are trying to run before - on record at least - they've spent any time strolling.
    Having said that, Music In Mouth is an album of genuinely good songs. Just one with perhaps two albums worth of ideas . . .

:: Philip Goodfellow

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