Bell X1 | Arms
“As the world feels like it’s becoming a harsher place,” says Bell X1 singer Paul Noonan, “we seek out the comfort of the familiar and familial…arms.”
And comfort is exactly what the Irish trio’s seventh studio album offers. Despite being described by the frontman as the most difficult record they’ve made, ‘Arms’ is their warmest, most welcoming yet.
It all begins with the dreamy vocal harmonies and tribal rhythms swirling around Noonan’s inviting voice on shape-shifting album opener ‘Fail Again, Fail Better’, before the glistening ‘Bring Me A Fire King’ becomes a meticulous interplay between Dominic Philips’ nimble bassline, David Geraghty’s African-flavoured guitar licks, and synths that have been set to stun.
The smooth grooves continue on the keys- and bass-led ‘I Go Where You Go’, with Geraghty’s alternately falsetto and rumbling voice perfectly complementing the music’s rise and fall; the head-bopping, finger-snapping ‘Sons & Daughters’; the silky electro that is ‘Out Of Love’; and the keening ‘Fake Memory’ that wouldn’t sound out of place on a David Byrne album.
But there are also moments of quiet introspection. Despite its title, the shuffling ballad ‘The Upswing’ is more maudlin than merry; the fragile ‘Take Your Sweet Time’ does exactly that; and tender album closer ‘The Coalface’ is a masterclass in restraint.
Beautiful, elegant, and refined, these nine songs occupy the same rarified air as the finest work by The Blue Nile or latterday Talk Talk.
- Bell X1 are supporting Tori Amos at Royal Albert Hall on 4 October 2017.