Setanta Records – 2002 – 54 minutes

A perennial fringe figure, Edwyn Collins has been knocking on the door of pop success for nigh on 25 years now. Sporadic chart success has ensued – 1983's 'Rip It Up' with Orange Juice, and 1994 global hit 'A Girl Like You' – but a sustained stint in the major league has continued to elude him, and Collins remains the nearly man of British pop. Things, it seems, will remain unchanged.

'Doctor Syntax' initially sounds like it could be a grower – a slow burner that reveals itself gradually over time. However, after quite a few listens, it appears its growth is somewhat stunted. Most of the album is simply too similar, and too often it sounds cheap and constricted – almost as if Collins was working on an EP budget. Dreamy opener 'Never Felt Like This', the punchy 'Back To The Backroom' and the gorgeous 'Splitting Up' show why he's a long-standing cult figure, but the rest of the album is simply too lacklustre. As has often been the case with the Edinburgh songsmith, the lyrics are interesting but the tunes just aren't there.

Collins seems destined to remain a bridesmaid and miss out on his own day out at the altar of commercial success. 'Doctor Syntax' is not so bad that he should have taken his own Orange Juice advice and ripped it up, but he should definitely consider starting again.

Tom Grealis

Tracklisting: Never Felt Like This – Should’ve Done That – Mine Is At – No Idea – The Beatles – Back To The Backroom – Splitting Up – Johnny Teardrop – 20 Years Too Late – Funny Thing – Calling On You