Bell X1 lead singer Paul Noonan makes the following lyrical demands on upcoming release Blue Lights on the Runway: (1) he wants to make a new world or word order, and he wants to make it rhyme (2) he wants George to tell him about those rabbits (3) he wants to be a better band and possibly a better man (though Eddie Vedder called this one first) and (4) he wants to shoot fire from his hand like some kind of human fire-flower. Oddly enough, if taken literally, his third demand is the one that seems most irrational here and more than a little self-depreciating.
We may be nubes to the Bellies’ brand of Brian Eno-infused, occasionally electronic, Euro-pop and Noonan may be trying to kick some sort of life-claustrophobia via the demand in question (see: “A Better Band”), but these Irish men have already pretty much stirred our souls with that great big stick of theirs, which kind of looks like an ore (see: “The Great Defector”). Meaning it’s difficult to imagine this band better. Of course, these fangirls’ hearts have always been hard-wired for any music that feeds their “where did all the good bands go?!” bitchin’ (so there’s no need to start cutting their red and blue wires. They need those. See: “How Your Heart is Wired”).
What this means is that Bell X1 channels the best of the Talking Heads, James and Ireland’s original big-hitters, U2 (they were even called Ireland’s best band by Vanity Fair, though we doubt anyone’s bothered to run this by Bono), and that, we really don’t know how to kick the “heady glow” of this bloody-fine discovery.
But we do know it makes for a good buzz, and, if we keep listening, Blue Lights and Bell X1 will keep feeding that above-mentioned need (and likely, yours too, once the words playing on your stereo start to swim). That’s the beauty of “time’s great elixir.”
At times comical, asking that mysterious man named George about those equally mysterious rabbits, and at other times dramatically dark, waxing worrisome on this mad, mad world, but always brainy, the band’s lyrical tastes are seemingly reflective of the Psychedelic Furs (sorry, an obvious pun about those bunny references). But, seriously, the Bellies’ lyrical tastes are highly reflective of their affinity for evolution; they even played bar mitzvahs and wedding parties before gaining popularity on the telly and touring with such artists as Bon Jovi and the late Elliott Smith (which resulted in a “big hair, small music identity crisis,” as the band’s bio reports).
Simple concepts, such as a girl who is pretty as a picture (of course) are combined with descriptive complications (like “the ribs of a broken umbrella”) that don’t easily escape our affections or memories — other lyric-snobs shall, inevitably, be likewise pleased. Let’s return to “How Your Heart is Wired,” for example-sake. It’s a single and, by all fan-rules, should, therefore, not be a favorite, but, even so, it’s one of ours — again, we just can’t pass-up Noonan’s lonely-boy tone when he sings, “I have a feeling you won’t look at me that way in the morning” (at least we know this band will never have to try semaphore, as words are seemingly always on their side).
Musically, we hear, the Bellies also have a penchant for changing that overall tune-al air (record-to-record-speaking, this time electrifying the introspective-pop of Flock), demonstrating that ongoing need to be a better band (whether or not this need is justifiable: see earlier graphs). When it comes down to it, Noonan, Dave Geraghty and the other lad are all the more loveable because of this apparent esteem issue, as it’s hard not to heart them when they hand-out such heartening lines as “you’re so pretty and I’m so lame,” “when it comes down to it, do I have any real friends?,” and “something’s got to give.” But, if anything has to give, it’s merely a little slack (as in Noonan should cut himself some, even if he does call himself a wee bit of a prick). And this goes for Geraghty and the other lad (Dominic Phillips), too.
Anyway, after listening and re-listening to Blue Lights, we still haven’t heard a word from George regarding those rabbits; but nonetheless, love the color of it all. We have learned several useful things from these Irish men, including, but not limited to, the following: grand exits and goodbyes take too much time, underwire is annoying at the airport, except to the man manning the X-ray machine, stealing chewing gum can be romantic, and the wiring of the heart should be left to professionals.
Did we mention, We love the color of it all!?
In fact, the word “color” perhaps most accurately describes this effort — opening on a poppy, snap-your-fingers, clap-your-hands vibe, turning darker from here and then darker still, just as we’d imagine a rocket ship blast-off into the great beyond (though, in this case, the Bell X1 was just an aircraft, flown really fast). The result is a runway of emotional cacophony that is quite pleasing to the ears, taking one techno-upbeat high and another ballad-downbeat low (otherwise referred to as that “heady glow,” the obvious result of too much head-phone time).
In this sense, it was not surprising to learn that singer/songwriter Damien Rice of O fame once held the reins of Bell X1, formerly Juniper, but because synth-riffic songs like “The Great Defector,” “Breastfed” and “A Better Band” made us break out our best Tim Booth spaz-dances (even while sedentary), we’d say the boys are obviously too much of a band’s band for a folkie-fronter, anyway (three cheers for Noonan). Still, Blue Lights does have its Rice-like, slow-show, moments, relating those broken-umbrella tales about boys who beat themselves up and making every fan girl wish she were that tall white Amelia from America (see: “Amelia”). We love these too. So, we’re justifiably left wondering why Noonan would ever sing-on his unbelievable wants for a better band (though this 90s-era, fuzzed-out track is another favorite, he’ll likely master that fire-shooting thing first. And that would be slightly more believable. See: “A Better Band”).
Of course, this could all easily be cracked up to a case of she said/she said — or what happens when two fan girls read too much into one band’s lyrics (guilty as charged). And speaking of cracking and cases, we think we finally cracked the case of George and the mysterious rabbits, and it only took, say, 14 listens (?) and the help of one fan boy(friend)— it’s a reference to Of Mice and Men (right?). Well, right or not, if the Bellies’ keep giving, we’ll gladly keep taking—and there can be no misinterpretation here.
Blue Lights on the Runway will be released on March 3.Powered by Sidelines