Three years later, Bell X1’s Flock finally leaves the Islands and flies across the pond to America. The band has been a hit in their native Ireland since 2000, making it to #1 on the charts there with Flock back in 2005. But only since leaving Islands Records have they managed to get the album to America, where they were previously best known for either being Damien Rice’s original band (back when they were Juniper), or for having their song “Eve, The Apple of My Eye” play in the background when Marissa Cooper and Alex Kelly share a lesbian kiss on The O.C. (QRO ‘Best Music of The O.C.’ feature). Now their relaxed, sweet alt-pop comes over for real.
Flock opens with its best piece, “Reacharound”, a pressing, epic number that expands well, with just the right amount of shadow. There’s a mixture of darkness and light on the record, and Bell X1 seems stronger when they’re on the shadier side of things, such as with “Reacharound” or the dark, eighties-synth groove of the following “Flame”. There’s also more variety among the murkier tracks, with the alt-country of “He Said She Said” and disco-dark tech on “My First Born For A Song”.
But it’s that higher, sweeter, melancholy-pop that Bell X1 became known for in Eire, and Flock certainly has that in U.S. singles “Rocky Took a Lover” and “Bad Skin Day”. However, the strongest might be non-single “Natalie”, which has more of a carrying capability. The band does mix the formula a bit near the end, going softer on “Just Like Mr Benn”, bright and friendly (and a little bit folk) on “Trampoline”, and slow, choral, and orchestral on finisher “Lampposts”.
With Flock, Bell X1 may finally come out from under the wing of Damien Rice and girl-on-girl Mischa Barton action in America. It may have taken the band longer to make it to the States than the last Irish band on Islands Records named after a secret U.S. Cold War airplane, but better late than never.