No matter what stage of their career they’ve found themselves in, Bell X1 have been no strangers to quality songwriting and their latest foray has produced a collection of tracks and themes that ponder a-plenty, producing a record that steps away from their recent creations and delves into a more introspective and self-conscious range of music. Chop Chop opens with a melodic tinkling of ‘Starlings over Brighton Pier’. A complete departure in a sense and completely justified, our introduction to the simplified approach is led by strings, steadily ebbing and flowing as horns and piano float airily through.
‘A Thousand Little Downers’ adds a change of pace as solo vocals are accompanied by a melody that hints at melancholy and yet never really dwells on it. Our appetites are adequately whetted by this stage and the inclusion of a brass section adds weight to the end and peppers the track with a jarred discord that ends just before it becomes uncomfortable. Tracks like ‘Diorama’ and ‘Motorcades’ highlight the beautiful tone of Paul Noonan’s voice, the latter a nice slow ballad that lifts with restrained brass. It’s also nice to hear a bittersweet song with more major chords than minor, a breath of fresh air from the usual musical personification of heartache.
It’s at this moment you realise that, for a Bell X1 record, Chop Chop is quite a raw and stripped back offering. The synthesizer has been thrown away, there are no loops or computer generated sounds. It’s simple composing, great musicianship and top-class production. For those looking for a more familiar sound, ‘The End Is Nigh’ is exactly how you expect a Bell X1 album to end. An echo of the past or perhaps the history of Bell X1 lays under the twinkling notes of Dave Geraghty’s guitar and solid thunder of the drums. A mighty close to an impressive collection of songs.