Bell X1

Bloodless Coup

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Taking a page from 2009’s Blue Lights on the Runway, Bell X1’s fifth album continues to mix nervy electronics with anthemic pop/rock, resulting in ten brainy, quirky epics that target the heart as well as the head. Much has been made of Bell X1’s status as the second-biggest band in Ireland, and they certainly sound like it, with songs that swing for the cheap seats and melodies that bear more than a few similarities to the U2 songbook. The group finds a balance between electronic programming and organic instruments on Bloodless Coup, sidestepping the problems that plagued U2’s Pop by using synthesizers and drum machines to enhance, not dominate, the songs. Not as much attention is paid to the lyrics, however, which fall somewhere between slapdash and slapstick. On past albums, Paul Noonan found the art in everyday life, turning mundane subjects into something poetic and anthem-worthy. Here, he sings about YouTube, McDonalds, haloumi cheese, and sandwiches. Measured against Bloodless Coup’s panoramic washes of sound, these new lyrics fall flat, with only a handful of songs -- most notably “The Trailing Skirts of God,” which traces the singer’s religious upbringing with sharp, nostalgic details -- matching the grandeur of the music itself. Yet even when Noonan’s lyrics blur the fine line between whimsy and flimsy, his voice sounds earnest and self-assured, floating up to the rafters during the louder moments and condensing into a bedroom croon on the more intimate songs. Bloodless Coup gets rocky at points, but there are more than a few scattered gems here.

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