Bell X1 have built up hype around the release of Bloodless Coup in a very clever manner. The band premiered new songs during their acoustic tour last Autumn, but performed in raw arrangements of just vocals, piano and acoustic guitar it was hard to gauge what direction they were taking. When a preview of ‘Hey Anna Lena’ was revealed it was met with widespread praise from fans and non-fans alike, it seemed that perhaps the band were taking a whole new route. Then, in subsequent contrast, along came lead single ‘Velcro’, the kind of trademark Bell X1 bouncy catchy pop track we’re all so familiar with. An intriguing juxtaposition.
The album is essentially an amalgamation of everything Bell X1 have proven they can do well. Easily identifiable singles with radio airplay firmly in their sights, poignant reflective ballads which will evolve into anthemic crowd-pleasers once the band take the album on tour, personal narrative lyrics laced with quirky Irish colloquialisms – and a couple of tracks that break from the norm of a band consistently keen to diversify.
‘Hey Anna Lena’ is a brave choice of first track. At the risk of alienating old-school Bell X1 fans, Bloodless Coup opens with a blissful piece of atmospheric electronica. ‘Velcro’ and ‘Sugar High’ are both incredibly catchy, and the natural single choices. ‘Built to Last’ sees David Geraghty take over lead vocal duties– a welcome change, although his voice will eternally be in the shadow of Paul Noonan’s it is deserving of prominence in its own right.
The crescendoing drums and soaring vocals of the ‘Nightwatchmen’ make it an emotive delight but the standout track comes in the form of ‘The Trailing Skirts of God’, as Noonan conducts a lyrical examination of the old Irish Catholic ethos – the desire to abandon being outweighed by the need to cling on to tradition, played out against a beautiful melodic backdrop. If there’s a weak point it’s ‘Safer Than Love’, which quite simply falls short of the high standard set by the other nine songs of Bloodless Coup, almost as if it was added to the track-listing as an afterthought.
The Talking Heads comparisons will inevitably be bandied around again – but tired clichés aside, this is the sound of a band rejuvenated. Blue Lights On The Runway may have left the Bell X1 faithful having doubts, but this record signals an emphatic return to form.