Much has been made of the fact that Archangel aren’t a band, but the nom de plume of multi-instrumentalist Nick Webber. Over the course of these eleven songs Webber sings, plays drums, guitar, bass, piano and keyboards and probably made the tea as well. Luckily, his desire to retain control is more Prince then Lenny Kravitz when it comes to the quality stakes, with How To Lose Your Best Friend containing a handful of quality songs.
The album opens with the title track, and the listener is immediately knocked off guard as what sounds like the opening riff of the Foo Fighters‘ Everlong being played on a keyboard starts to emanate from the speakers. It’s disconcerting, not least because it’s such an odd calling card for an album that barely features a guitar played in anger. It’s also too recent an influence, with the album luxuriating in the pomp of late ’70s and early ’80s pop (complete with a version of Steely Dan’s Do It Again). Once you’ve shaken that off though, the song’s hypnotic melody starts to work it’s magic as the tension of the first couple of minutes is finally released in a flurry of piano and lyrical frustration (“I want what I have not”).
Elsewhere, album highlight Odysseus recalls Let’s Dance-era David Bowie, all two-note keyboard riffs and playful time signatures. There’s also a great bit around the two minute mark when everything falls away to leave a simple keyboard riff that is cheekily reminiscent of the Eurhythmics‘ Sweet Dreams, before everything falls back into place. Not every song looks that far back, with Hallelujah’s slightly delayed nod to the punk funk phenomenon of about three years ago. Crucially, Webber ditches trying to be The Rapture after the first minute and the song settles into being a proper pop stomper with a gigantic chorus.
Lyrically, the album deals with the end of a relationship, the ‘best friend’ of the title being the likely influence. Not The Man You Think I Am records a couple going their separate ways, the repetition of the title working as both an apology and a defiant statement, whilst titles such as Giving Up The Ghost and The Bruise speak for themselves. It’s credit to Webber’s ear for a good melody that the album never sags under the weight of all this sadness, the album zipping by in just over 35 minutes.
One minor quibble is that Webber’s voice can become slightly monotone on repeated listens, his delivery as flat as the music is dramatic. But it’s not enough to tarnish a sterling debut that brims with potential. Who needs band mates when you can do it all yourself? Touring might be a bit tricky though.