Irish singer-songwriter Iain Archer is nothing if not prolific.Despite this being only his second solo release (his first, Flood TheTanks was released in 2004) Archer was a driving force behind Scottishsuper group the Reindeer Section, worked with DukeSpecial and Fionn Regan and helped to co-write and tourSnow Patrol‘s breakthrough colossus, The Final Straw.
Despite having an impressive song writing pedigree, highlighted byand an Ivor Novello nod for his work with Gary Lightbody’s boys,Archer has decided to relaunch a solo career in spite of only lukewarmreviews for his debut outing.
His second album, Magnetic North followsa very similar line to his first, a quintessentially Celtic record,full of the kind of melancholia and yearning that bands like Belleand Sebastian, Delgados and Travis have gleefullycornered as their own.
Largely acoustic, with the occasional burst of power-pop, MagneticNorth is a lovelorn collection of songs that only really comes to lifewhen Archer does, too often the album will descend into tweesoul-searching ruminations on love and, well, lots of sea, whichrather dull the album, especially when a pop gem like Minus Ten cropsup.
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 GrahamCoxon‘s more accessible pop moments, with Spitting Games-likewoo-hooed backing vocals cheerfully supporting a song about terrorismin Belfast. Similarly, Soleil could be a cut from any of the earlySnow Patrol albums, the falsetto chorus and stomping thumbed guitarare well-worth another Novello nomination.
Unfortunately, there is not enough like this on the rest of therecord. While obviously well-constructed songs, Arriero, Luke’s Pointand Collect Yourself are lightweight, with Archer often accompanyinghimself only on guitar and piano – fine in the hands of experts likeDamien 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 bandsto beat him. However, his predilection for hushed mediations on lifeand love are lacklustre, especially as his erstwhile groups, SnowPatrol and The Reindeer Section, do them so much better.