Grant Lee Buffalo - Copperopolis

SOME MIGHT fiddle while America burns. Grant Lee Phillips, however, has seen the writing on the wall. A vague premonition of disaster troubles him very deeply indeed. So he gathers up his remorse, polishes his anger, dusts down some vague liberalism, recollects his historical savvy, manufactures some compassion, and, along with Paul Kimble and Joey Peters, makes Grant Lee Buffalo's third LP the least boring of their canon.

The Los Angeles trio have finally shaken off Michael Stipe's anti-Midas touch - every group he recommends turns to dust - by following the template of 'Automatic For The People' and then lacing the results with politics instead of death, although death does get a look-in as well. Portentous in places, bombastic in others, and pretty on occasion, 'Copperopolis' is a state-of-the-nation speech that'll go down well in stadiums.

Phillips, Kimble and Peters use a widescreen sound to deal with both minor and major situations, and though the dynamics are too well stressed, in terms of pastoral interludes being laced with bursts of noise, when their hands are steady, they fight a serious fight. The opener and most 'rocking' track, 'Homespun', says, "Hate is not a lone assailant," and warns, "In the jungles of the Midwest dwarf militia train for war," but just exhilarates with a military tattoo and multi-layered guitars.

From there on in, the tempo mostly seesaws, although Grant Lee is now poised, with a voice you either love or hate, a pained, overwrought cry, to show his horror at the Oklahoma bombing on 'Crackdown', mourn the death of industry in the bitter 'Bethlehem Steel', and, for a lighter moment, use 'Hyperion And Sunset' to mock the people who run away from Los Angeles after each earthquake.

He's big-hearted, a man of the people and all that, but you have to wonder if Grant Lee Phillips hasn't overstretched himself. When 'Even The Oxen' reminisces over supposedly brighter times, when music was used as an escape, you hear the nostalgia of a man struggling to come to terms with the corporate structures he's embroiled in. He doesn't want out, though. That's the paradox.


Dele Fadele