Single Review: Bell X1 – The Upswing

By on Monday, 7th March 2016 at 12:00 pm

Irish indie rockers Bell X1 have just unveiled a new single, the first from their upcoming LP ‘Arms’. The album is slated for release later this year, but new track ‘The Upswing’ follows in the footsteps of Bell X1’s previous album ‘Chop Chop’. Frontman Paul Noonan referenced a sort of “split album” concept around the writing of ‘Chop Chop’ in an earlier interview, and from the sound of the new song, ‘Arms’ may represent the second half of that endeavour.

In looking back on ‘Chop Chop’, a friend of mine described Bell X1’s recent songwriting as “subdued” and I think that’s an accurate interpretation of ‘The Upswing’ as well. The songs seem to be feeling their way around some deeply felt emotional experiences, and there is a slight uncertainty in both the music and the lyrics as the band works to find its footing.

On the surface, ’The Upswing’ is an attempt at reaffirming a relationship, a commitment to sticking together through thick and thin. Its lyrics are an engaging combination of sauciness (“one day we’ll meet trouble halfway / and she’ll say just a taste and I’ll be on my way”) and tender intimacy (“on the table I’m squeezing your hand / and it’s giving me steel / to say now this is how it’s gonna be”), though its most memorable line is probably the quirky Star Wars reference at the end of the first verse.

Those little lyrical peculiarities have become Bell X1’s trademark over the years, and they are matched in the musical arrangement of ‘The Upswing’. The song’s chorus line, “baby, one little push from you, got me on the upswing”, is smooth and instantly catchy, with soothing, seductive vocal harmonies whispering in the background. But it’s worth that Noonan hasn’t been given to affectionate appellations like “baby” in his past songwriting, and it does feel slightly awkward at first. Likewise, the synth and brass instrumentation behind the chorus is subtle, but also slightly off-kilter, giving the song an edge that keeps the intimacy at arms’ length.

Which brings us back to the title of the forthcoming new album, ‘Arms’. It’s hard to say whether Bell X1 had the idea of “intimacy at arm’s length” in mind during the writing process, but it certainly seems to fit, at least as far as this first single is concerned.


Stay tuned to TGTF for more information about Bell X1’s new LP ‘Arms’ as it nears its anticipated release. In the meantime, you can read our archive of Bell X1 coverage right back here.

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