Re-taking the world by storm, former bandmate of Bell X1 claims another victory

Once a part of the band Juniper with the Bell X1fellas he then went on to forge one of the most outstanding solo careers seen in the history of mainstream Irish music, he is of course Mr. Damien Rice and after his record-smashing debut 'O' all those years ago, he's returned his with new effort '9'.

His unparalleled imagination when it comes to titles aside the album is actually a lot better than (I, at least) expected. Never really a fan of the previous snippets that had wafted past my ears, especially that 'Cannonball' song, which just seemed to me to fail at exciting my senses; it came at a time when everyone was saying to me: 'Oh, Radiohead, that's depressing', when it was very apparent that there weren't any smiles to be found in their Rice's whimpering melancholia...

Anyway, things change, and we move on, and Damien has moved on musically indeed. Less like a James Blunt for teary teenagers with a slightly more refined taste in music, '9' is a work encompassing pieces of song that appeal to that night-time mood when everything's a little ethereal and dreamy, it's a good antidote to the unrelenting energy of Bell X1's Flock and therefore they'd go nicely hand in hand in your CD player.

Starting with '9 Crimes', the first voice coming in being that of Lisa Hannigan, it's a lovely little piano ballad that hints at a real maturity and a songwriting panache that few others really come close to. But that said, there's still little annoying bits that come in every now and again, lines like 'I love your depression and your double-chin', which just sound a tad too smarty-pants for my liking.

'Elephant' however, is a good song, from its slow beginning it becomes a real builder that takes you far away, drops you off and picks you up and brings you back. Then there's 'Rootless Tree' which is a real smooth ride that's nice and easy to listen to, in a lamp-lit room, then suddenly the chorus crashes in with "Fuck you!" and it's safe to say that the first time you hear it you're kind of blown away. 'Coconut Skins' is more fun, a bit like Bright Eyes, but not nearly as annoying, and 'Grey Room' is a beautiful piece of music, a bit like Josh Ritter and Mark Geary singing along with The Frames as a backing band.... Certainly suits the indie scene over here (where I am, that is... in Dublin), and it's a dead cert it'll be huge....

Altogether, it's my humble opinion that this album doesn't so much blow your socks off; rather it pulls them up and tucks your trousers into them so as to ensure you don't fall off your bike when cycling along... It's full of very strong numbers, real nice songs, still, I'd attest to Bell X1 still being the best at writing the nicest songs, even if it's only 'Bad Skin Day' that is the sole piece of evidence I have to offer the jury. But Mr. Rice, yeah, the boy's done good.