Review: Bell X1 – ARMS

ARMS is the seventh studio album by Bell X1 – arguably one of Ireland’s most beloved bands. The Irish trio’s latest work contrasts with the stripped back, acoustic sound of critically acclaimed 2013 album ‘Chop Chop’ which secured Bell X1’s third number one album on the Irish Album Charts, while also being their fourth consecutive album to be nominated for ‘Irish Album of the Year’. ARMS, on the other hand, appears to convey a beautiful sense of melancholy mixed with optimism, achieved through Bell X1’s use of relaxed synthesizers and chilled-out beats that are featured throughout the nine enticing tracks.

ARMS as a whole is a stunning yet mellow listen, with tracks such as ‘The Upswing’, ‘Take Your Sweet Time’ and ‘Coalface’ exhibiting the sheer elegance of Bell X1’s bittersweet songwriting paired with calming yet emotional melodies. Even a subtle Star Wars reference is thrown into the intimate and tender lyrics of ‘The Upswing’, the first single to be released off the album, and a perfect example which reflects Bell X1’s lyrical quirkiness: ‘Are these the droids you’re looking for?’

In contrast to some of the soft tones of the album, Bell X1 also convey a deep sense of spirit and determination resulting in a number of surprisingly captivating tracks such as the introductory ‘Fail Again, Fail Better’. The listener is eased into the album through a faded array of vocals that appear to resemble a stuck record, but it is when lead vocalist Paul Noonan cuts through with his clear but cool voice that the catchy lyrics can be realised. The song then concludes in a startlingly chaotic fashion with layered synths and mismatched vocals reflecting the new, experimental but honest aspect of this new album – the band openly confessed that “this has been the most difficult record we’ve made, in terms of feeling like it was good enough to share, to let it go and no longer be just ours”.

Indie-inspired and sax- infused ‘Bring Me a Fire King’ with the equally catchy, almost hymn-like tune of ‘Sons and Daughters’ build on Bell X1’s alternative genre and the wide range of styles that they are known for. The interesting use of synths and backing vocals on ‘Out Of Love’ create a pleasingly dramatic number that arguably wouldn’t feel out of place on Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby soundtrack. These tracks are contrasted against the poignant and romantic lyrics of ‘I Go Where You Go’ and ‘Fake Memories’ whose shabby grace make for pleasant yet emotive listening and nicely add to the charming collection of tracks that make up this fabulous new album, coming from a band who have grown immensely over their illustrious career.

Megan Wood

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