Stop me if you've heard this one before: Four Irish guys start pop-rock band, adopt a name with a letter-and-number combination that refers to a cool airplane, and set out to take over the world. Sound familiar? But apart from the goofy name, Bell X1's story more resembles Genesis than U2.
Bell X1's roots are in the 1990s band Juniper, which featured lead vocalist Damien Rice. When Rice embarked on his successful solo career (think Peter Gabriel), drummer Paul Noonan moved, Phil Collins-style, from the back of the stage to the front, as the group's vocalist and frontman. He still plays drums on the recordings, but Bell X1 performs as a five-piece live, with an additional drummer.
The band's third album, Flock, is dominated by herky-jerky guitars-and-drums grooves, Noonan's somewhat Chris Martin-style vocals, and burbling electronic sounds: "Flame" affects a Blur-like insistence, while "Bigger Than Me" takes a page from the Talking Heads' jittery funk. Noonan sprinkles the songs with wry observations like "If there was a God, then why is my arse the perfect height for kicking?" The brooding "My Firstborn for a Song," about songwriter's block, has some Bowie-esque piano noodling midway through, over a distorted beat.
Flock was released on Universal Music Ireland in 2005 -- where it hit the top of the charts -- but only made it to the U.S. in recent months, after the Yep Roc label issued it here in February. And one of the songs on it is older still: "Eve, the Apple of My Eye" dates from the band's 2004 album Music in Mouth, but was added to the U.S. version when the song was featured in an episode of The O.C. and earned the band some fame in this country. Unfortunately, "Eve" is pure prom-ballad, with earnest lyrics like "You left, I died, I went and you cried," and overly emotive vocals peaking in falsetto quavers -- something you might expect from a slumming Maroon 5.
But that shouldn't detract from the fact that a band that's wildly popular in Ireland, but relatively unknown here, is playing our tiny Club Café on Thu., May 29.
Bell X1 with Brooke Waggoner. 10:30 p.m. Thu., May 29 (9:30 p.m. doors). Club Café, 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. $13. 412-431-4950 or www.clubcafelive.com
- Music in mouths: Bell X1