Channing Cope – Sugar In Our Blood

3 out of 5

Label: North Park Records / 54º40′ Or Fight!

Produced by: Channing Cope (?)

I’ve had the same experience almost every time I listen to Channing Cope’s Sugar In Our Blood: firstly, remarking that it’s a great album title – great imagery, that can be interpreted in a variety of ways – and then being totally entranced by opener __, its mercurial bob and weave of clean guitar and bass lines over an unsettled drum patter reminding of fellow label-mates Ticonderoga, but there’s a build to Cope that’s vastly different from that band’s shuffle, urged on by vocalist Ali Deniz Ozkan’s urgent, broken croak, and the building riffage which finally gets to a propulsive strum and beat right before the song concludes. This is – it still is – an amazing song, and great introduction to the band. 

And during the next six songs, you may forget what you were listening to. 

It’s not that Sugar’s remaining tracks aren’t good, it’s just that the group chooses to remain between lukewarm and simmer for almost the entire runtime, and the exact combination of sounds that seemed so compelling on the first track are never exactly brought together again – Ozkan sounds more wistful than worried; Kenny Schulte’s guitar is laid back; Chris Conner’s drumming still has plenty of nuance, but it’s played with a casual slink – and the group sticks to a tonal range that, firstly, is fairly limited, but then secondly tends to fall into background-music territory – pleasant but non-disruptive. This deceptive plainness makes it hard to pay attention, and the group also leans into this a bit much, taking a very slow-roll approach to developing songs into a “point,” both musically and lyrically. When you get there, you appreciate the journey, but the tactic is used again and again, all in that dismissible tonal range. 

With different sequencing, this could probably be more effective, but it always leads me down a path of incredible excitement – that opening song! – and then on to very mindless listening, to something very pleasant, but, er, what were they called again?