In Review: Andy Bell - The View from Halfway Down
For 30 years Andy Bell has been making incredible music. His original band Ride were pioneers of the original shoegaze movement with their debut album Nowhere being dubbed an 'instant classic'. In the mid-90s, his Hurricane #1 project gave some edge to the Britpop scene, their second album adding more drone/baggy influences. Then, almost inexplicably, he joined Oasis on bass. After they imploded Beady Eye was formed until they called it a day. Bell then re-formed Ride. While the live shows were good, it felt like getting back in touch with your teenage friends to hangout over Christmas. Yes, it’s a laugh but you’re just going over old ground. So, for a while it looked like Bell would be a footnote to guitar music, until he reappeared in 2019 with a new album, and name. The self-titled GLOK album was a motorik thing of beauty. Bell wove Krautrock and electronic motifs in a way that felt fresh and exciting. Now, less than a year later, he has returned with a new album, The View from Halfway Down, released under his own name.
The View from Halfway Down opens with ‘Love Comes in Waves’. There is a delicious 90s baggy bounce to it, but psych tinged. It’s catchy, and Bell's vocals sound heartfelt while the lyrics are fill with teenage optimism. “Get ready to ride the first wave of love”. ‘Ghost Tones’ is the shortest track on the album but a mostly instrumental acoustic folk workout. Bell’s guitar work is deft and hypnotic. It gently pulls you into a web of warming woollen threads, then wraps you up snug. ‘Aubrey Drylands Gladwell’ is just Bell riffing as if his life depended on it. There is a backward psych backing-track. Imagine if ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ was a psych monster and you’re on the right lines. ‘Cherry Cola’ slows things down a bit and adds some folk motifs to the album before it goes a bit Beta Band. It is one of the standout monuments on an album of standout moments. “I wish I was cooler. I wish I was dead. I wish I was someone else instead” Bell croons. Listening to this I wish I was Andy Bell. The album ends with the instrumental ‘Heat Haze on Weyland Road’. This feels like a poppier version of GLOK track and closes with album with a sense of optimism and hope.
The songs have a wonderful bounce to them that is hard to ignore and all offer signposts to his previous musical lives - the baggy bounce to ‘Love Comes in Waves’, a jangly drone to ‘Skywalker’, and the underlying psych-pop of ‘Indica’. Here, though, he’s combined them to create a kaleidoscopic album that adds a much-needed dose of technicolour to your life. While The View from Halfway Down might not be as strong as the GLOK album, but it is more fun. And fun is something we all need at the moment.
The View from Halfway Down is out now via Sonic Cathedral.