Jittery pop sound that rings a bell

You'd have to wonder what David Byrne would make of Bell X1. Chances are, the man in the big suit would approve, shaking his hips and getting on down to Paul Noonan and the gang's excitable homage of sorts to the great Talking Heads.

But sometimes it's more than that. Sure, it's become something of a lazy comparison, and the lads themselves don't like to dwell on it too much. But it's almost always unavoidable. Especially when they're on stage. And when Mr Noonan decides the time is right to break into a verse of Once in a Lifetime in front of thousands of fans. And what about that awkward little dance of his, eh? Indeed, somebody's been watching Stop Making Sense on repeat.

Maybe he got lost in the tunes; the buzz -- the celebratory atmosphere that comes with headlining a show as big as this one. Or maybe he simply can't help it. Whatever the case, it actually isn't important. The group (originally from Kildare) may wear their influences on their collective sleeve, but they're all the better for it, serving up an infectious slice of jittery pop and hook-heavy rock that's every bit as groovy as it is anthemic. According to the US press, they're the second biggest band in Ireland -- a questionable status, I think you'll agree. But then how many other local outfits survive long enough to release their fifth album?


Indeed, they've come a long way, this bunch -- as is evident by the strange yet fitting juxtaposition of crunchy electronic beats and drippy, acoustic, 'lighters in the air' ballads. It's what happens when a band changes their sound over 12 years -- you gotta keep everyone happy, right? Which might explain why Bell X1 often look and sound like two, possibly even three different bands up there -- each of them wrestling for the spotlight over the course of 90 impressive minutes.

There's the braver, more experimental group; the guys who bang their heads together and come up with a cracker such as 4 Minute Mile, or the genre swooping Hey Anna Lena. Then there's the softer side -- the one that rears its delicate head during Rocky Took a Lover and Eve, the Apple of My Eye (the latter of which Paul dedicates to the late Amy Winehouse). Guess which one provokes a mass sing-along.

"Come on Marlay, let's go party!" shouts Noonan (the heart and soul of the group). Elsewhere, the ridiculously catchy Flame does its job, as does The Great Defector.

Fair enough, it seems the lads are destined to remain right on the edge of global superstardom. But that's okay -- especially if they continue to play as good as this. HHHII