Citizen Cope

Every Waking Moment

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There are a number of artists -- Everlast, G. Love, Mat Kearney -- who, while staying firmly within blues and rock, bring in hip-hop tendencies, with varying degrees of success. Citizen Cope is another one who could be added to that group, although the only "rap" he actually incorporates into his music is relegated to an occasional singsongy, quickly spoken line and some internal rhyme. This urban rootsiness, along with the characters he created and sang about, was what won him fans on his first two albums, and it's something he continues onto his next. For Every Waking Moment, however, Cope has a slightly broader approach to his songwriting, telling more abstract stories that aim toward the universal rather than the specific. The problem is that he's not a good enough lyricist -- not particularly witty, deep, intelligent, or even unique -- to pull this off, and so the album just ends up seeming unfocused and even cheesy. Yeah, there are some attempts at political and social awareness ("Friendly Fire," "Brother Lee"), but they're really just a bunch of half-finished statements, and nothing is developed enough to actually make any kind of impact. Cope has that gruff, world-weary kind of voice that sounds like it's seen a few too many things and had a few too many whiskeys, and maybe it has, but it comes across as forced and affected. The simple melodies with echoing layers and synth strings are boring and overdone, and the only thing that actually keeps the record from dying is that the band -- Cope included -- does a pretty good job of taking a standard bluesy line and embellishing it until it almost shines. The best track on the entire album, in fact, is "Awe," an instrumental, because it allows room for the band to show off some of its influences -- Latin and blues mixed with acoustic guitar-driven rock -- without being stymied by Cope's repetitive lyrics that try much too hard to be profound. It's nothing extraordinary, but the groove is pretty tight, the horns are clean, and the drums are intricate and fun. It's good enough that it even makes the next song, "Left for Dead," a stripped-down guitar-and-voice affair (complete with ever-so-slight reverb), bearable, almost nice (until of course, the inane chorus of "A E I O U" arrives). The rest of the record, however, is uninspired and bland, and -- aside from the occasional moments of insight that anyone who tries hard enough could stumble upon based on sheer probability -- Every Waking Moment is really nothing worth listening to.

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