Album Reviews

Iain Archer – Magnetic North

(We Love You) UK release date: 9 October 2006

Iain Archer - Magnetic North Irish singer-songwriter Iain Archer is nothing if not prolific. Despite this being only his second solo release (his first, Flood The Tanks was released in 2004) Archer was a driving force behind Scottish supergroup The Reindeer Section, worked with Duke Special and Fionn Regan and helped to co-write and tour Snow Patrol‘s breakthrough colossus, The Final Straw.

Despite having an impressive song writing pedigree, highlighted by and an Ivor Novello nod for his work with Gary Lightbody’s boys, Archer has decided to relaunch a solo career in spite of only lukewarm reviews for his debut outing.

His second album, Magnetic North follows a very similar line to his first, a quintessentially Celtic record, full of the kind of melancholia and yearning that bands like Belle and Sebastian, Delgados and Travis have gleefully cornered as their own.

Largely acoustic, with the occasional burst of power-pop, Magnetic North is a lovelorn collection of songs that only really comes to life when Archer does, too often the album will descend into twee soul-searching ruminations on love and, well, lots of sea, which rather dull the album, especially when a pop gem like Minus Ten crops up.

Lead single When it Kicks in is by far the best track on the album ,a spiky three and a half minutes that is very reminiscent of Graham Coxon‘s more accessible pop moments, with Spitting Games-like woo-hooed backing vocals cheerfully supporting a song about terrorism in Belfast. Similarly, Soleil could be a cut from any of the early Snow Patrol albums, the falsetto chorus and stomping thumbed guitar are well-worth another Novello nomination.

Unfortunately, there is not enough like this on the rest of the record. While obviously well-constructed songs, Arriero, Luke’s Point and Collect Yourself are lightweight, with Archer often accompanying himself only on guitar and piano – fine in the hands of experts like Damien Rice, who can tease a melody out of a biscuit barrel, not so fine in Archer’s case.

This is not a bad album by any means- when Archer plugs his guitar in and cuts loose, there are few bands to beat him. However, his predilection for hushed mediations on life and love are lacklustre, especially as his erstwhile groups, Snow Patrol and The Reindeer Section, do them so much better.

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Iain Archer – Magnetic North