PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Bella: No One Will Know

The Vancouver trio like sugary melodies, analog synths, and, apparently, a lot of New Order.


Bella

No One Will Know

Label: Mint
Canada release date: 2007-09-18
US Release Date: Available as import
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

When you read or hear about New Order's career, you probably find lots of comments about how they influenced dance music. And, while the opening beats of "Blue Monday" doubtless inspired a generation of nerds with drum machines and laptops, that's only half the story. Over the last decade or so, the sound of the band's more "organic" work has infiltrated what we now know as "indie".

Maybe when you have such a strikingly unique sonic signature, it's that much more obvious when you rub off on others. After all, very popular bands were playing off the New Order sound before New Order themselves were finished exploring it. At their best, Bernard Sumner's plaintive/angry, pretty/sloppy guitars, Peter Hook's "lead bass" lines, and Stephen Morris's perfectly-calibrated martial drums created a powerful, effortless synergy. And they sounded like nothing else, although everything from U2's "I Will Follow" to the Cure's "In Between Days" sounded more than a little like them. More recently, Wilco, Pernice Brothers, and anyone to whom you could apply the terms "retro" or "electroclash" seem to have taken notice.

What does all this have to do with Bella, the winning Vancouver-based trio whose second album, No One Will Know, was released in September 2007 to positive reviews? Well, it's one thing to pay tribute to a band's sound on a track or two, or to allow it to serve as an influence. But, really, based on the evidence here, Bella should be paying a straight percentage to Sumner and company.

The scraggly guitars, rapid-fire drumming, melodic bass, and general sense of controlled chaos are primary characteristics of most of No One Will Know's dozen tracks. But Bella are not exactly New Order Mark II. They've given everything a coat of shiny, glittery paint, adding modern indie touches like squishy analog synthesizers and bursts of garage-band noise, not to mention appearances from Starflyer 59's Jason Martin and half of Imperial Teen. All three Bella members take turns on vocals, with Tiffany Garrett Sotomayor and Charla McCutcheon lending their wide-eyed, girlish cooing to most tracks. The result is that No One Will Know is disposable ear candy, and as such, it does its job pretty well.

Bella's energetic approach to songwriting and playing is easy to appreciate. Opener "Give It a Night", which bears more than a little resemblance to New Order's "Age of Consent", is a pretty accurate predictor of the album as a whole. It's short, sweet, and catchy, with a decent chorus and some head-in-the clouds "aaah, aaah, aaah"s. A trio of similarly catchy, kinetic numbers follows, and then comes the first of a pair of lead vocals by Cameron Fraser. "Ocean or a Lakeshore" adds some acoustic guitar and a bit of singer-songwriterly weight to the mix, and comes off like one of Placebo's midtempo numbers.

For the most part, Bella's attempts at introspection and balladry are almost too trite to tolerate. When, on "For the Last Time", the gang sing "I want you to know me / Like never before", you've heard it before. The whimsical, twinkling keyboards and earnest, naïve vocals are straight out of mid-period Smashing Pumpkins. But without the melancholy magic that kept the Smashing Pumpkins' tracks from being groaners, "For the Last Time" plays like an in-class high school love note that was intercepted by the teacher.

More often, though, Bella avoid such an embarrassing fate. "Settle Down", a slow-moving breath of air, gets the mellow vibe down much more effectively. "Go" provides the album with its one true breakout moment, when a brooding verse gives way to a genuinely mean-sounding, guitar-heavy, wordless chorus. And "Unless You're Golden" manages to navigate a disco beat successfully.

No One Will Know is very much a batch of songs that were created with the same, interchangeable parts. Some songs are faster than others, and some are better than others, but they all share the same overall texture. And, given Bella's chosen palate of trebly sounds and saccharine arrangements, that means the album works best in small doses. Like any candy, it's sweet and immediately gratifying, but it's not going to stop you being hungry for something more substantial.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.