Doctor Syntax [US Bonus Tracks]

by: Edwyn Collins

Edwyn Collins sounds more relaxed and assured than ever on Doctor Syntax, his fifth solo album. Responsible for virtually every single sound on the album, other than some treatments and programming from Sebastian Lewsley and drums by Paul Cook, Collins focuses all of his energy into crafting fascinating, postmodern tunes. Though there's a lo-fi feel to the beats and samples and only a modest amount of texture added to the guitars, it's a remarkably lush and layered-sounding album. Indeed, it even brings to mind the quasi-medieval rumblings of Momus and the mystical frivolity of Baby Bird, without those artists' trademark lunacy. Themes of Beatles adulation, condemned ex-lovers, and introspective questioning fit nicely with Collins' moody, quirky vibes. Gone is the rage and noise of I'm Not Following You, and in its place is a focus on sometimes gentle melodies and emotions. "Splitting Up" might be the most beautiful song Collins has ever recorded, as tender guitars paint tone poems over beckonings of, "I'm feeling down/I'm splitting up"; just when the song appears to be over, three minutes of even more personal soul-revelations drive it into the stratosphere. There's certainly less studio processing, polish, and trickery on Doctor Syntax than on his previous albums, and that might be why Collins is so successful in conjuring moods here. Even when he indulges a bit on "20 Years Too Late" by mixing Pet Shop Boys neo-disco with witty rapping, it just sounds right. Confident, serene, and fitted with superb melodies and choruses, Doctor Syntax is a brilliant, consistently thrilling work of art and perhaps the high point of Edwyn Collins' solo career. [The U.S. release of Doctor Syntax adds three tracks. "Message for Jojo" is a collaboration between Collins and Bernard Butler. The track is a soulful, bitter tune with vocals traded off between the two, with Butler sounding tougher than usual and Collins employing a lighter touch. It is a great addition to the album. The other two tracks are performed by Collins alone. "After All (I Live My Life)" is a soul-searching, acoustic guitar-driven cover of a Frankie Miller song, and "Stars in My Eyes" is a beautiful ballad with a loping Hi Records beat and gorgeous vocals from Collins. These three songs are not filler; they don't just pad the track list to make the disc seem more palatable to consumers, they truly add to the experience. They make the already great record even better. Hats off to Edwyn Collins and Instinct for showing the rest of the industry how it should be done.] ~ Tim DiGravina & Tim Sendra

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