Review of Bell X1's album 'Blue Lights On The Runway'
A couple of ideas to get your head around to make this review simpler - first, AOR, an acronym for adult orientated rock, a term originally coined in the 80's for acts like
REO Speedwagon and Foreigner. Essentially music to wash your XR3i to, it's dad rock lack of challenge and cash over quality ethos is still alive and kicking today in the guise of
Snow Patrol and Coldplay. Here's your second thought then: grower. In the iPod era where playing an entire album all the way through is as unfashionable as actually paying anything
for it, a grower is another ancient term for a record which worms it's way into your consciousness ever so gradually.
I wasted a bit of your time explaining those - they'll be about as much use as a C-90 cassette these days - because Bell X1 are undoubtedly what passes for AOR in the noughties,
but instead of displaying the trite, hand wringing vapidity of Chris Martin et al, Blue Lights On The Runway is undoubtedly 'A grower'.
Firstly, you have to love any artist who manages to pen lyrical genius like 'You're just picking your knickers from your arse' (One Stringed Harp) and/or 'You're the chocolate
at the end of my Cornetto' (The Great Defector). The latter is musically a guilt-free rip off of Little Creatures era Talking Heads complete with singer Paul Doonan affecting his best
David Byrne, but I say if you're going to rip someone off, it might as well be a goddamn legend.
You also can't help but feel affection for a record with such grace and understatement. Doonan's voice is slight but never overwhelmed by the laid-back backing, especially on the likes
of Amelia, it's piano melodies twinkling effervescently. The closest we ever get to rock and roll is on the slightly fuzzy pedalled Breastfed whilst the three parts of A Better Band hint at a self confessed dive into a 'Sea of prog rock'. The rules of AOR dictate however that it's the ballad that has the most leverage and it's the unplugged, played live simplicity of Light Catches Your Face that threatens to bring the house down in a rom-com candle haze. Bet you can't wait 'til next Valentines to try it out on the object of your affection.
Big news in their native Ireland, over here Bell X1 will inevitably be overshadowed by their more famous compatriots, but if you like your politics more personal, your egos reduced and your tunes more intimate, then Blue Lights On The Runway are certainly better than none on your horizon.