Audio: Merciful Hour – Bell X1

Posted 4 months ago in Music Reviews

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There’s a moment at the end of The Lobster, the third track on Bell X1’s eighth studio album Merciful Hour, where the instruments cut out and you’re left listening to Paul Noonan and the rest of the band singing one last burst of the chorus. It serves as a nice nod to the band’s briefly ubiquitous 2008 hit Flame which in turn reminds you that Bell X1 have been doing this for a while. They’re a safe pair of hands and Paul Noonan sounds better than ever; age has lent his always-appealing voice a weathered warmth.

Merciful Hour sounds gorgeous with synths constantly vying for supremacy over strings and when the band and producer John ‘Spud’ Murphy get the balance right, the results are lush (see Haint Blue and Bridge & Tunnel). There’s more than a hint of The War on Drugs about some of these songs with their combination of a straightforward heartland rock vibe and splashes of synth and keyboard. When it’s done right it’s a very contemporary sound, but Spacewalk does sound like it could have been on a Sam’s Town-era single from The Killers. It’s still a good song but the point is that there are times when Merciful Hour feels a little pedestrian. There are no envelopes being pushed here.

Then again, I don’t believe Bell X1 are trying to challenge listeners with this one. They’ve had the fundamentals nailed down since the early 2000s. Merciful Hour is an inviting and intelligent iteration on their durable formula.

Bell X1Merciful Hour

[Belly Up] 

Words: Joe Joyce


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