HY-GIY?: Bell X1 – Music in Mouth
Have to take a break from Guns N’ Roses stories and it’s been too long since I revisited some of the finest albums our local acts have released over the years so let’s turn the spotlight on Kildare’s favorite sons, Bell X1.
I first discovered Bell X1 in March, 2003. I remember the date because it was the month Turn launched their second album, Forward in Vicar Street and they roped in the Bellies as support. I wasn’t overly impressed. I’d heard Neither Am I briefly the year before and hadn’t been too impressed by that either (although Man on Mir will always be amazing). That was my first impression. What made its mark was one of my housemates playing White Water Song nonstop for about two months after the gig and then another housemate constantly playing Alphabet Soup on the guitar every time someone blinked. By September I was turning my favor towards the group and that same month I was back in vicar Street to see Turn only this time they were supporting Bell X1 for their Music in Mouth album launch. Turn were great but admittedly, the night belonged to the headliners despite my love for the Kell’s trio and with that, I was hooked.
A few days later I was back in Sligo and saw a copy of Music in Mouth for sale so I bought it, headed to work thinking I’d some fine listening for the evening. Two minutes later I’d managed to bump into Paul Noonan loading gear out of a truck on O’Connell Street, into a tiny little pub called McGarrigles where the band was playing a show to around a hundred people or less. Bell X1 have been one of Tickets There’s favorite Irish bands ever since our first topsy, turvy year together and just two years after our initial encounter, the band were back in Sligo playing top over 5,000 fans in the Radisson Hotel, once again with Turn as support.
Anyway, that’s our original meeting with the band, now it’s time to discuss the music. Bell X1 have four albums, Neither Am I, Flock, Blue Lights on the Runway and our favorite and the subject of this review, Music In Mouth. I’ve picked this one for three reasons. 1, I’m not a massive fan of Flock and for some reason; I just never got into that much. 2, Neither Am I and Blue Lights On The Runway are great but not as good as MIM and 3, it was the album that got me hooked on the band. The styles on Music In Mouth and the song writing show serious improvements from their debut. The excellent Snakes and Snakes isn’t beloved by all but we like it. It’s a real upbeat, hooky number that displays the band’s talent for wacky yet cohesive musicianship, not to mention their always off the wall lyric choices.
The fantastically catchy Alphabet Soup, with its refined banjo / guitar riffs and its instantly memorable choruses follow and its overdriven, stripped back jumble of instruments after the choruses make this song as enjoyable as it is unique. Taking things back quite a distance, Daybreak presents a much more delicate side of the bands song writing. Not only is it one of the nicest songs on the record, it’s one of the nicest songs the band has ever written and anyone who, like Tickets There, has put this on first thing in the morning will know how good it is to wake up to. Lovely harmonies, lovely playing, lovely flow…and the feedback at the end gives you the final kick you need to wake up.
Off course everyone knows the very famous Eve, The Apple of My Eye. Once again it comes from the softer side of the band. What can you say about this song other than its lovely? You can say it was used during a very (searches for the appropriate PG word)…nice moment during the O.C. which ensures it’ll be a classic for many, many men out there for years to come.
This puts us right in the ‘album track’ territory of Music in Mouth. Next to You, West of Her Spine and Bound for Boston Hill all make excellent additions to the record but it’s only when the opening notes of Tongue flare up that you realize just how sharp the Bellies song writing really is. Yes they have the knack to write perfectly sublime, enchanting and atmospheric pieces but, they also have a gift for heavy, loud bruising tracks that incorporate all the traits shown on the lighter material but still manage to kick you in the ass. The next track, White Water Song is another very, very good example of this. Chaotic guitars, bucket loads of O.T.T.-ness, Paul’s frenzied lyrics and style and the massive crunching chorus with spiraling guitar driven choruses launch forward gripping the confused first time listeners who were just warming up to the comfort shown on the rest of the album.
In Every SunFlower see’s a return to the land of album tracks but final song, I’ll See Your Heart and Raise You Mine gives the album on of its true highlights. As loveable and gentle as Eve, The Apple of My Eye but less popular making it just that little bit more special.
So that’s it, our review of our favorite Bell X1 record. Have You Got It Yet? No!! Go get it.
(What a corny way to end but I’ll See Your Heart… is still playing so forgive our soppy little words and child like gramm….I mean innocence.