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Doctor Syntax is former Orange Juice frontman Edwyn Collins's fifth solo album in 13 years. Three years in the making, it's his first LP since 1997's I'm Not Following You and comes a full seven years after his breakthrough single, "A Girl Like You." Its name inspired by an early 19th century satire, Doctor Syntax is a finely crafted collection of alt-pop gems that drip with soul and wry wit. Enjoying his status as an indie-rock elder statesman, Collins delivers cunning asides that occasionally burst into overt ridicule "The Beatles" is an acerbic "arch-riposte" to the Fab Four, while "Back to the Backroom" belittles Cool Britannia. With the jangly guitars of his earlier work all but extinct, Collins's music is now lined with sugary summer soul and driven by sleek, sophisticated rhythms. --Christopher Barrett
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Collins has a good voice, intelligent lyrics, and an interesting singing style. Unfortunately, Doctor Syntax mostly doesn't make use of those strengths. The first half of the album is forgettable, meandering, and somewhat pointless. It's only in the last few songs (starting with Johnny Teardrop) that the album begins to pick up. 20 Years Too Late and It's a Funny Thing might have been good middle of the road songs on a stronger album, but here they're just too weak to hold up the entire album on their own.