1996's Copperopolis is an album that lurks in a strange sort of limbo -- it's a fine record that also happens to be Grant Lee Buffalo's weakest LP. Grant Lee Phillips was still writing fine songs and his voice was as compelling as ever, but the relative simplicity of the group's first album, Fuzzy, had fallen by the wayside as Phillips, percussionist Joey Peters and producer and multi-instrumentalist Paul Kimble embraced the possibilities of the studio and while the more layered sound is often striking, the simpler dynamics of Fuzzy are ultimately more powerful. While the group was clearly still capable of making good music together, there's also a sense that Grant Lee Buffalo was starting to reach the end of their possibilities on these sessions, and as strong as the tunes are from a melodic standpoint, lyrically they were becoming cryptic to the point of having no clear meaning. Significantly, most of Copperopolis' faults don't become clear until after repeated listenings; the surfaces of this album are lovely and impressive, but the nooks and crannies don't hold the telling secrets of this group's earlier works. Copperopolis would prove to be the last album from the original Grant Lee Buffalo lineup, and while the music they made on these sessions is often beautiful, it never reaches the heights this group seems capable of, even if they do come close on a few tunes.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming