Since the massive success of 2005's 'Flock', Bell X1 have become known for their big pop hooks and festival friendly choruses, yet they are arguably more proficient when it comes to understated balladry. On their fifth studio album, the Kildare band lean surprisingly towards the latter, expanding their use of glitchy electronics and atmospherics, and while there's little of the instantaneous catchiness we're used to from Bell X1, 'Bloodless Coup' slowly wins you over.
After the huge pop hits of recent years, it almost feels as if Bell X1 are hungering for something new on 'Bloodless Coup', but though it's a relatively low-key affair it can still lay claim to a few toe-tapping moments. With its buzzing synths and thumping rhythms, 'Velcro' is by far the most radio-friendly of the tracks on offer here, but it's still a long way from the anthemic singles of 'Flock' and 'Blue Lights On The Runway'. Gone is the shiny, commercial production style of the last two albums, replaced with the quirky minimalism of 'Hey Anna Lena' or the breezy air of '74 Swans'. 'Nightwatchmen' stands apart from the other nine tracks here, however, as a moody drum and guitar driven piece with a massive, almost post-rock style climax.
Yet, there's still something of a tendency to keep song going longer than their optimum running time. 'Sugar High', for example, borders on the six minute mark, despite the fact it barely contains a discernable chorus amidst its oddball effects and repetitive keyboards. Of course, with patterns and textures now taking precedence over standard song structure, the best thing to do is forget all about whether there's a sing-along line around the corner, and allow yourself to sink into the pleasing harmonies and lingering pace of 'Bloodless Coup'.
They make not quite match the heights of their early work but, having cultured a fanbase who will no doubt expect to hear another 'Flame' on 'Bloodless Coup', kudos are due to Bell X1 for refusing to make music for anyone but themselves.