There’s a lot that can be gleaned from the title of Bell X1’s sixth studio album. The tracklist alone is just nine songs, and after the electronic indulgences of 2011’sÂ Bloodless Coup, the trio has gone back to a more acoustic sound.
The result is an album that’s proudly unsophisticated, achieving a smooth flow through restraint. Musically, the songs are quirky without having to show off with-two minute guitar solos. Your attention’s much more likely to be carried by percussion that will get lodged in your head, such as on the hypnotic “I Will Follow You.” This deserves a listen through for the music alone, but then pay attention to the lyrics. If something as clever as “See me on my knees like Fagin as my crown sinks in the shit” doesn’t make you smile, you’re probably not human. Or you haven’t read your Dickens.
Much of the lyrical content of this album is world-weary without being defeatist, with perhaps the exception of “A Thousand Little Downers.” Even then, frontman Paul Noonan manages to pile on the everyday annoyances that drive us mad. Who cannot relate to the desire to be found “swinging from the menu tree” while being told your call is important? “Motorcades” is rich with political imagery, as the title alone suggests, but it’s “Feint Praise” that has the lyrics most meaningful on the record: “So when I am done and wheezing on my last bed, I won’t wish I’d done something else instead.”
My one wish is that there could be a bit more grit on the record, like an extra song or two with some bite to go with that razor wit. Next one, lads. I’ll be waiting.