Release Date: Mar 3, 2009
Record label: Yep Roc
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Irish indie-rock lads carry momentum on latest.
After Bell X1’s previous album, Flock, the fact that Damien Rice was the original singer of this band (at the time named Jupiter) seemed irrelevant. Rice’s solo work represents a delicate tenderness that can, at any given moment, explode into a cathartic passion that expresses the deepest emotions in all of us. Bell X1, on the other hand, have evolved into a well-rehearsed arena rock band, ready to overtake bands like Franz Ferdinand and Coldplay with both great musicianship and catchy songwriting.
Established fans of this scrappy Irish quartet may be startled by the band's slight turn toward electronica on its fourth studio album, but there's no need to fear: the focus is still on bittersweet melody and whimsical lyrics. Lines like "Bring your canary, bring your flame" and "I'd say life's a different story when you're facing certain death" and entire songs like the snotty, raunchy "One Stringed Harp" offer an interesting counterbalance to what are often delicately beautiful arrangements and tunes; on "The Great Defector" a slightly off-kilter verse slides into a startlingly simple and lovely hook in the chorus, all the while flirting with a ska beat. (It also features the couplet "You're the chocolate at the end of my cornetto/I love the way your underwire bra sets off that X-ray machine.
In music as it is in life, failure is often the first step towards fortune. Such is the case for critically-acclaimed folk artist Damien Rice, whose breakup with the now-defunct 90’s Irish rock band Juniper served as a career-defining springboard. Yet there are lingering questions as to whether said success will follow Rice’s former bandmates, who – despite the struggle to be taken seriously in a brave new world of experimental rock – have swallowed their lumps with dignity and toiled up the proverbial indie mountain.
The best song on this Irish outfit’s fourth disc is a pitch-perfect Talking Heads impression called ”The Great Defector,” which may or may not have been inspired by Bell X1’s own great defector, Damien Rice. (Before he split to pursue a solo career, Rice played with these guys as Juniper.) The rest of Blue Lights on the Runway is duller than that highlight; most of it sounds like warmed-over Coldplay, a commodity in no short supply among earnest U.K. indie types.