The last time we saw our boys of Copeland they were lost in some amative haze, their debut album ‘Beneath Medicine Tree’ replete with gratuitous opining for miscellaneous girls. The sentiments were overreaching, yes, but remedied by the band’s crafty balance of Aaron Marsh’s ballad-ready falsetto and the modern rock brushstrokes. Try as you might, their intelligence in the matter was undeniable and effective, keeping the lovelorn and wistful emotions from turning into a ranting of Sad Bastard No. 907. But another saving grace was their ability to avoid the grotesque cliché of Emoland, keeping their chords uniform and biting rather than jangly and slovenly.
The problem was that a single slip one way or another—if they directed their sound to one overwhelming direction or another—would have precisely resulted in the saccharine mess they astutely avoided. The band’s goal this time out was, to paraphrase Marsh, to prove they could rock out as well as be renaissance pop-rockers. To do so they recruited Ken Andrews, who befit the band’s new artistic direction to a tee. Having made Sense Field’s ‘Living Outside’ far more muscular than their debut, a parallel result could have, and has, easily been envisioned for Copeland.
The band benefits from a cleaner production, the guitars and vocals coming off without the slight muffling that typified their debut. The vocals are especially well-mixed and mastered by containing no separation from the rest of the instruments, evidenced by the performance on “Choose The One Who Loves You More.” There the guitars don’t roar as you would expect, but merely linger and cushion the soft drumming and Marsh’s even softer performance. The same cooperation is found on “Sleep,” led by a tender piano melody and an agreeable chorus of overlapped vocal melodies while “You Have My Attention” differentiates itself by a pronounced, punched-up refrain. “Kite,” effectively the album’s strongest song, is guided by a repeating film reel sound sample and an accordion, Marsh’s vocals distorted to sound aged and physically fragile.
Of course, however, ‘In Motion’ wants to rock out, and the resultant affair sadly plays down their keen songwriting intuition for 3-chord bombast. “No One Really Wins” moves with a lowered guitar rumble that may be pleasing superficially, but seizes nothing of the nuance which really makes the band shine, the same for “Pin Your Wings,” its guitars planting the song firmly in traditionalist pop-rock fare. An unfortunate result is the bleeding of simplistic playing into the lyrical performance. While ‘Beneath Medicine Tree’ wasn’t exactly Milton-esque in scope and complexity, ‘In Motion’ seldom even attempts to be. “Cause your words hit like a train and I can’t ignore it/This moment could be our last/You fall in love and I’m running after/You’re moving way too fast/Don’t slow down, don’t let go/Hold me close” from “Don’t Slow Down” are unusually unambiguous for Marsh after reaching lyrical heights like “When Finally Set Free” from their debut. Such lyrics abound on the album, placing them in an area of lesser importance.
The twin lyrical and sonic simplicities make the album enjoyable, but lacking the effulgence and majesty of ‘Beneath Medicine Tree.’ So for the harder slant they sought they have effectively done away with subtlety, showing the band slip into a different (and far less complicated) domain than their debut offered. It isn’t a disastrous slip to one extreme or the other, but the lacking centricity of it all makes ‘In Motion’ suffer.
Release date: March 22, 2005
Rating: 6.2 / 10
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