This is one waaaaay overdue blog. Little over three years ago I promised to meet up with West Coast of Scotland singer songwriter Colin Bell to talk about his album Pen to Paper. That never happened. I still don’t know why to this day but sitting here now listening to the album I am regretting my shoddy memory.
Colin plays under the name Fallen Arches and to date has this, his debut album and the Footprints EP under his belt. Pen to Paper was deservedly nominated for a SAY award at the time and listening now I can see why.
So, lets drop the virtual needle on this album.
The album opens on the delicately picked chords of ‘Burn Bright’. The light and shade on the instrumentation is so well layered. The chorus has this sheen of midi strings and pounding drum. What’s more immediate is Colins lyrics. He has the poetic leanings of a latter day Woomble with a delivery that would have made the late, great Scott Hutchison very proud indeed. It’s obvious we are in for an emotional ride.
The rhythmic strumming of ‘Lost at Sea’ eases us in before the timing is switched up, as if the song itself is having a panic attack. “I can’t help the way I feel, I’m inside out I’m lost at sea” implores Bell. Whilst the song is simplistic (two chords mostly) through manipulating the pace of the song our interest is held firm. This is from the heart stuff.
A Christmas song next. Really cheerful, jaunty chords strummed with attack ushers the song in. Bell is switching up the mood. That is until the end of verse one when the song spins on a penny and we hear about the hardship faced by so many at Christmas. This is so cleverly composed. It also speaks to Colin’s eye for a song fighting with his social conscience.
‘Foreign Noises’ grabs you immediately. Patently written about an experience in an hospital, losing someone, it’s so heartbreakingly relatable. By the time the chorus comes in on the low cello hum we are already emotionally invested. I actually can’t find the words to say how deeply this affected me. ‘Foreign Noises’ is a stunning piece of song writing.
The albums title track comes in at pace lifting the mood. This is a song straining at the leash, dying to stomp on the distortion pedal and rock out. Again, the dynamics make this song a really interesting listen. It also helps there is a killer hook for the chorus.
‘Eggshells’ is perhaps the most complex song on the album so far, musically speaking. From the simplistic opening of picked chords under Bell’s stream of consciousness delivery we double time into a darkly hewn chorus. Out of nowhere the drums suddenly double time again like we are running at speed from some unknown assailant. I would have loved this section to go on a bit longer, perhaps that was the intent.
Nostalgia is always the friend of the songwriter. That said it is incredibly difficult not to sound schmaltzy or to create that picture in the listeners head that you set out to when you first put pen to paper. Oh, that’s a bit meta. Moving on. In ’Seventeen’ Bell paints a vivid picture. He gently takes our hand and leads us through his memory. We walk through reminisces good and bad but no matter how bad that memory may be, he always leads us back to the light. “we were invincible, untouchable and no-one will ever take that away from us”. It is apparent that hope is important to Bell as it should be to us all.
Nowhere on the album is that more obvious than on the epic closing track ‘Let It All Out’. This is one special song. If you forced me to recommend one song to sum up what Fallen Arches is all about, it’s this one. A paean to looking after your mental health for the sake of yourself and those you love. It’s chock full of quotable lines like “Counting blessings and ignoring years, gaining inhibitions and losing friends”. That line floors me every time. It also has a chorus that will be spinning round and round your head for weeks. Isn’t that the sign of a great song?
In Pen to Paper Bell has created a portal into his reality, his existence. There is no filter and we take him as we find him. All these songs are intensely personal and we feel fortunate to have been allowed to visit and spend time there. What is left is an image of a humble man with an incredible talent for weaving these melodies from the threads of his own life.
Keep your eyes peeled for more music coming soon from Fallen Arches, I can exclusively reveal his new album Passing Disaster will be out later in the year with another album to follow this in 2022. Before lockdown Bell was one of Scotland’s hardest working musicians out gigging most weekends. Thankfully with things easing he will be back on stage in Glasgow at The Hug and Pint on November 7th 2021 with more gigs to be announced.
Meanwhile you can find Pen to Paper on his Bandcamp page as well as streaming in all the usual places.