The consistent quality of BellX1 albums continues uninterrupted with Arms. That the band – the recording core of which is vocalist Paul Noonan, guitarist David Geraghty and bassist Dominic Phillips (musicians are added for live shows) – has also maintained, rigorously so, a creative insistence on change is something the less courageous should seriously consider.
BellX1 have been a fixture on the Irish landscape for nearly 20 years, and, as with many music acts of similar duration, could easily have settled in like a piece of house furniture: intact, stationary, functional, taken for granted.
Yet across the course of seven studio albums, this outfit has proven that the only formula is a requirement to transform what’s inside your head into music.
Their last album, Chop Chop (2013), radically reconfigured their music, with the band rethinking and blindsiding from start to finish. After that, one might have thought some more of the same would suffice, but Arms is the chalk to Chop Chop's cheese.
In fact, the trio excel on songs (and Noonan, specifically, with somewhat more robust, concise lyrics) such as Bring Me a Fire King ("So many chancers it's hard to know who the real stars are anymore"), The Upswing, I Go Where You Go ("That glint in the sand is just fool's gold"), Take Your Sweet Time ("What's it like to hear music for the very first time?"), Sons and Daughters ("one hope, one heart, one life, one go") and Out of Love.
A line from the latter, “You know it’s time to move on when the thrill is gone”, could well be taken as BellX1’s creative motto.
Constructed more like a self-contained suite than a disparate collection, Arms delivers more nuance than noise, more gentle groove than gritty riffs. It is another marvellous piece of work from a band that continues to gently, respectfully startle.