“We’ve never really done this acoustic-ish malarkey in Dublin. It’s kind of scary,” Bell X 1 tells the crowd on their new live album Field Recordings. Well, that “malarkey” has been parlayed into a two discs live and acoustic (ish) extravaganza in celebration of their debut Neither Am I, released a decade earlier. The album, chronicles live performances in Europe and North America and it rarely disappoints.
The familiar back catalogue has been stripped back to bare bones using just guitars, piano and an iPod. This makes for stark and utterly moving performances on tracks like ‘Bad Skin Day’ and ‘Eve, The Apple Of My Eye’. The acoustic guitars and piano serve as a beautiful accompliment to these stories of lost love and self doubt. The signature synth hook of ‘Rocky Took A Lover’ has been replaced with an arrangement that feels raw and exposed. The unmistakable indie pop tune has been reborn into a restrained and subtle ballad creating one of the album’s highlights.
Moments of acoustic folky tenderness and lyrical laments are at the heart of this project with the band’s witty banter making it even more intimate. The pace picks up with up- tempo offerings like ‘The Great Defector’ which is happily enhanced by crowd participation, while the drums and electronic touches within ‘How Your Heart Is Wired’ and ‘Sugar High’ add groove, giving this 21 track marathon a shake up and some much needed balance.
The unplugged album, or in case unplugged except for an iPod, is the holy grail for many bands as it is usually reserved for those that have earned their stripes through longevity and a strong discography. All of these boxes are ticked by Field Recordings. Listening, you are reminded just how many tracks you know the words to but you never even realised. A keeper for die hard fans and a great introduction for the new ones.