Joup’s Friday Album – Chris Bell’s “I Am the Cosmos”

chrisbellLike most everyone, I came across Chris Bell’s lone album I Am the Cosmos way, way late. The material was recorded over a three year period during the mid 70’s, but aside from a 7” single of the title track featuring “You and Your Sister” on the B-side, it didn’t receive a proper release until 1992, well over a decade after Bell’s tragic death. It was worth the wait though.

Bell’s original claim to “fame” was as an original member of the 70’s power pop band Big Star, on that group’s first album, #1 Record. When the record failed to find commercial success (though it would go on to influence pretty much every indie and alt-rock band of the 80’s and 90’s), or maybe because he felt overshadowed by the rising star power of fellow band mate and songwriter Alex Chilton, Bell departed from Big Star to pursue his own music. Over the next few years, he would struggle with alcohol and drug addiction, test the waters of spirituality and Christianity, travel, and record some great songs. He even maintained his relationship with Chilton, who appears on “You and Your Sister” on backing vocals. Before he could release a solo record, Bell was killed in a car accident in 1978 at the age of 27.

But he left us an album’s worth of beautiful and touching pop songs.

From start to finish, the album sounds like an open confessional, a collection of deeply personal nuggets that seem as if they could have been culled from the journal entries of your best friend. They’re sweet, heart-on-your-sleeve odes to life and love, but never obnoxious or overbearing. Moreover, the whole album just feels honest, with Bell’s obvious Beatles and Kinks influences shining throughout. The title track is one of the greatest break-up songs ever written or recorded. It’s sadness, longing, acceptance, and regret tied together in a perfect 4-minute ball. All the while, a pervasive feeling of melancholia hangs heavily over the record, even on the looser and more rocking numbers, possibly a side effect of the posthumous nature of the release, or maybe just a reflection of the artist’s own soul. Either way, it just works.

My album highlights are “I Am the Cosmos” and “Speed of Sound.” Enjoy it all below and cheers to your Friday.

Tag Chester Whelks!


Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit

2 Responses to Joup’s Friday Album – Chris Bell’s “I Am the Cosmos”
  1. […] Joup’s Friday Album – Chris Bell’s “I Am the Cosmos” […]...
  2. Chester Whelks Reply

    Thanks for making sure I didn’t come to this album way, way, WAY late. I have to admit to only being familiar with This Mortal Coil’s cover of ‘You and Your Sister’, and Big Star’s ‘Third/Sister Lovers’ album, they’re always on the to do list.

    This column is the digital epitome of that beautiful phenomenon of friends (albeit electric ones who’ve hardly even met) exposing great music to one another.

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