A one-time stint with Damien Rice aside, Ireland’s Bell X1 have made precious little headway on this side of the Atlantic. After six albums, they’re yet to ratchet up their recognition to any degree of significant standing. Back home, however, they’re practically superstars, with headliner status and ongoing airplay. Given that homegrown success, it’s somewhat surprising that they’ve been unable to translate that to more than modest returns from the American market.
Part of the reason may lie in the subtleties of their sound, an approach that, for lack of a more definitive description, remains just out of reach. The hooks are there, but it takes time for them to fully coalesce, given that they’re not always apparent on an initial listen.
Arms, on the other hand, benefits from a somewhat sturdier set-up. While the melodies still tend to creep up with a slow sweep as opposed to a sudden surge, the overall effect is more emphatic. The music builds and peaks, without giving the impression that there’s any sort of overarched intent. Songs such as Bring Me A Fireking,” “I Go Where You Go,” “Take Your Sweet Time” and “Sons and Daughters” have an understated yet endearing quality, leaving, in their wakes, an affecting afterglow. And while the majority of the songs don’t fully blossom until they reach their conclusion, the percolating tempos and buoyant choruses do their best to move matters along. It makes the results all the more resilient.
To be sure, it’s unlikely that Arms will bring Bell X1 any sort of really big breakthrough on this side of the pond. Yet at the same time it’s a skillful enough effort to at least increase their notice. Once that’s accomplished, further awareness will inevitably follow.