[20 February 2008]
Three-member collective the Bell have leapt away from their native and notoriously long-wintered Sweden and instead found inspiration amongst England’s ‘80s rock. With synthesized elements, a persistent bass line and a frontman, Mathias Stromberg, who sounds like Interpol lead singer Paul Banks, it’s hard not to classify the Bell as a mixed-up bag of Echo and the Bunnymen, the Killers, Interpol, and New Order. Stromberg’s voice gives a distinct brooding that matches the moodier lyrics, which are nicely contrasted with relentless percussion and catchy guitar melodies. The Bell’s newest release Make Some Quiet will find fans across categories, while bringing back the alluring parts of ‘80s music.
References to the Cure and New Order are inevitable, especially with tracks like “Gone For Days”. A walking bass line, synthesized piano, and clean bell sounds give the song that underlying ‘80s charm which helps balance out the darker exterior. “I Need Nothing” uses even more computerized sounds and a background choir of voices to support the nostalgic glam-rock style. Dualism plays to the Bell’s favor. Alongside this pairing of dark verses with light sounds is the effect of clean verses distorted. The group frequently matches heavy chords with either innocent bells or crisp percussion. And on memorable tracks such as “On and On”, they insert a break of simply Stromberg and guitar, which is then followed by the band crashing into the frame. It blends well, creating identifiable layers that are memorable and dynamic. With these elements, Make Some Quiet exudes an evocative appeal that is still modern enough for them to remain competitive with current alternative groups.
The Bell proves consistent in their sound. However, it feels like they don’t want to overexert themselves. With only subtle varieties, the songs, though good overall, run the risk of flat-lining, of lacking the kind of arc that helps good albums evolve into great ones. A surprise is always nice. On that account, the Bell fall into cloudy territory. They risk being easily labeled in comparison to other bands, instead of creating their own distinct path. To quote their own lyrics: “I was drowning in a sea of people, but I got lost”. This is the weak link in Make Some Quiet. Several tracks are extremely memorable, but others are too similar in layout and delivery. They end up fuzzy in hindsight.
All in all, the Bell’s newest release is a lovely trip down brat-pack memory lane, mixed with the style of current radio hits. Although it will not lead the pack of music releases this year, the album will definitely attract a devoted fanbase. Having already accumulated raves on NPR’s Song of the Day for their first Make Some Quiet single “I Am History”, the Bell has begun momentum for this album well before its release. That momentum will hopefully continue.