Although for many, it may have felt as though the world has been put on pause over the past couple of years, Ride's Andy Bell has been a busy man; having made a successful debut as a solo artist in 2020 with The View From Halfway Down, releasing Pattern Recognition under his electronica alias GLOK, and performing countless live instrumental gigs as Andy Bell Space Station, he now returns with the stunning second solo album Flicker.
Having been written almost as a conversation with his teenage self, the album sees Bell provide inspirational lyrics born from introspection, set against a musical background that draws from his experience as a member of Ride, Oasis, Beady Eye, and his work in electronica.
Flicker is a bumper 18-track double album that Bell recorded with Oasis and Beady Eye bandmate Gem Archer at the latter's North London studio with mastering by Heba Kadry. Such is the reflective mood; even the album's artwork acknowledges the past as it is based on an old photo of Bell taken by Joe Dilworth, an outtake from the inner sleeve of Ride's debut album Nowhere.
Bell has explained the album's title refers to; "…that flame that makes a person who they are. I wanted to find that in myself, so I went back to the teenage me and got some advice on how to live and be happy in the 2020s." This retrospection is evident during the early stages of the album. During 'It Gets Easier', the upbeat bass-driven second track, Bell acknowledges the present and reassures "I'm living my best life" but also advises, "Life's too short, so don't waste your time". The contemplative mood continues through the acoustic, harmonious 'World of Echo' in which Bell asserts, "I won't forget all these memories".
The record's highlight is the anthemic 'Something Like Love', which features an intro, and lyrical content, that will evoke memories of Ride's 'Vapour Trail' – with the concept of time being prominent on both songs. The reflective mood of Flicker is defined by the song, with Bell advising that "You should never wish your time away" and "Use a mirror to remember, And look back with something like love".
Although there are many, often melancholic, nods to the past, there is a balance with songs that offer positivity and provide many forward-thinking instances. 'No Getting Out Alive' reminds of the importance of living in the moment, while 'When The Lights Go Down' is a captivating, uplifting instrumental benefitting from the addition of a saxophone. Another hopeful juncture is provided on 'Love Is The Frequency', which states, "The universe is calling, and I want to tune in". While 'This Is Our Year' ponders "Did we shift dimensions in 2016?", a nod to David Bowie, who provided Bell with inspiration to overcome the initial reservations of becoming a solo artist, but also confidently proclaims that "we always say it but, this will be our year". Before the calming closer 'Holiday In The Sun', in which Bell waves goodbye to the album by stating, "I'll see you all again sometime, but for now, my race is run".
The great success of Flicker is in the way Andy Bell has managed to piece together the vast array of musical styles employed on the record to form a cohesive, flowing album. From finger-picked folk baroque pop to psychedelia, almost all bases are triumphantly covered, ensuring listeners are captivated through all 18 tracks.
2022 was already shaping up to be a big year for Andy Bell, with the 30th Anniversary Tour of Nowhere for Ride on the horizon, but through Flicker, he has further underlined his credentials as one of the best, albeit underappreciated, songwriters of his generation.