Copeland - Beneath Medicine Tree (Cover Artwork)


Copeland: Beneath Medicine TreeBeneath Medicine Tree (2003)
Militia Group

Reviewer Rating: 3
User Rating:

Contributed by: jonathanJonathan
(others by this writer | submit your own)

I must admit that I feel slightly awkward trying to form a critical view of Copeland's debut album Beneath Medicine Tree. Having left their home scene of Florida after signing with The Militia Group record label, the band is a recent migrant to Atlanta. Front man Aaron Mesh openly reveals that thi.
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I must admit that I feel slightly awkward trying to form a critical view of Copeland's debut album Beneath Medicine Tree. Having left their home scene of Florida after signing with The Militia Group record label, the band is a recent migrant to Atlanta. Front man Aaron Mesh openly reveals that this album was shaped by two recent tragedies in his life–the hospitalization of his girlfriend as she struggled with lupus, and the death of his grandmother. Thus, the entire album is encrusted with this very medical theme. There is a strikingly beautiful insert included, more of a photo book than just liner notes, with imagery shot in Tampa's General Hospital by the band's bassist James Likeness. (For those interested, more of Likeness's photography can be found here). So now I am faced with the task of reviewing what is essentially a diary entry from Mesh, a musical documentation of what was understandably a very trying time in his life.

Copeland's sound is something akin to the usual fare of soft emo–imagine some kind of amalgamation of Dashboard Confessional, Ben Folds, and The Weakerthans. I must note that while I certainly went through my emo phase during my high school days, I have mostly moved away from the genre, save for a few nasty breakups when this type of fare often provided some sort of solace. Mostly, I think the problem with much of this emotionally charged music is that it always walks a fine line between clich√©d, ridiculous sentimentality and actual honesty. I can accept this soft emotive music when I feel it is real and honest. And maybe I'm basing it just on some liner notes, but I find myself believing Copeland.

Sadly, the music on Beneath Medicine Tree is no revelation. Fans of Dashboard Confessional and The Weakerthans' latest offerings will surely find something to like here. Copeland is doing some very similar things, but there are musical enhancements along the way–some unique guitar patterns, even some organ work. But every track is a slow or mid-tempo ballad, and several times while listening to this album, it sounds and feels like a more electric version of Chris Carrabba's style in Dashboard Confessional. It's a shame, because obviously Copeland's vocalist and songwriter Aaron Mesh has something personal to write about, not just mindless generic love songs. The sound here is just so reminiscent of previous offerings in the genre that it just feels like rehash at times.

There are some standouts, notably "California," where acoustic guitar and a driving keyboard (possibly even organ) line push towards a majestic electric finish, "Brightest," a flowing piano ballad with touches of guitar for texture, and "When Finally Set Free," a musically diverse closing track.

But when Mesh is writing lyrics like, "Soon enough my strength will return/Let me draw the blinds for you/You can watch the sunset from the bed in your hospital room," it makes my job enormously more difficult. Again, it comes to a matter of belief. In terms of emotion and a well-themed, complete album, Beneath Medicine Tree works. In terms of offering us anything with this emotion that could have been musically unique, it falls short.


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Anonymous (March 7, 2006)

copeland is emo all the way

Anonymous (April 5, 2005)

Great album. It's not emo and it's not indie, it's Copeland, and thats what makes it a great cd.

Anonymous (April 12, 2003)

the reviewer didn't even take the time to get the lead singer's name right. it's Aaron MARSH....not MESH.

Anonymous (March 31, 2003)

well written review. it's rare that even a reviewer who does not particularly enjoy an album or a genre will stil ascribe some credibility and appreciation on well-made music such as this.

Anonymous (March 29, 2003)

I don't think copeland sounds like dashboard. I know them. They don't listen to dashboard. the singer is obsessed with jeff buckley, brian mcsweeney (matthew), and toad the wet sprocket. Aaron does all the cool falsetto stuff that chris carrabba doesn't do. I think the copeland record is so much more diverse and dynamic than a dashboard record. The only similarity I see would be the dramatic, moody lyrics.

FortyMinutesWest (March 28, 2003)

There's always room for a Strongbad reference, eh Scott. Jonathan, be careful what you say, lest you be labeled condescending. But if you listen to Bad Religion, you're ok in my book.

Anonymous (March 27, 2003)

my band is playing with copeland in johnstown pa in a few weeks, i'm excited to see them.

ommaddon (March 27, 2003)

Sorry to spoil your fun. Not a robot. I can tone it down when i feel like it...but i don't make it a practice to write for kids who are scared of the written word. in my eyes there ain't nothin wrong with something that's a little more affluent than the typical "shit this album so fuckin good. buy this fuckin thing. it rips. shit!" Perhaps it was all the years of listening to Bad Religion....

- Jonathan

maverick (March 26, 2003)

And if so, what special powers do you have? Do you use them for good or for awesome?


Anonymous (March 26, 2003)

the review was written well, but i just got an empty feel from it. the same from "jonathan"'s responses to the comments below. he seems like a robot. is he a robot?


crazyjeb (March 26, 2003)

I was unaware that bold reviews caused such a hooplah. Hey, let's get over it...although the petition was pretty comical in an I snickered and moved on with my life kind of way.


Anonymous (March 26, 2003)

It has come to my attention that there is a petition being promoted as seen below.

To: Punknews.org community and staff

We, the people, promote the abolishment of the use of bold print with review listings in the online community of Punknews.org. This movement believes not in creating barriers between fans of punk rock music, but in achieving solidarity as a group of one, where no man or woman ranks above the other in their active participation towards building a greater, international and equal online punk rock scene.

Well. I'm a new staff member, and though I have not conferred with my fellow staff, I' am more than happy to comment on this from my point of view. It is my understanding that the bold reviews are not to create segregation among the online community here, but to identify which reviews are, in fact, written by actual staff members of this website, in which we have many patrons. I believe it has always been the policy of Punknews.org to accept user submitted reviews. The editors of this site have done so, and though the user reviews are frequently littered with misspellings, inaccuracies, and leaning biases, Punknews allows a forum for your voice.

As staff editors and contributing writers, we receive promotional music packages from a variety of record labels for the purpose of reviewing that product.--standard practice. A bold review, in that sense, does not function for purposes of segregation, but to signify to patrons which review is coming directly from us--the staff, who undertake the task of reviewing a great number of records in accordance with our partnership with the labels. Hopefully you will find our staff reviews factually accurate, even if you not agree with our subjective review. I find it only fair to the music industry which we all support that Punknews would strive to its fullest ability to maintain quality news and reviews, and by having staff writers, I see this as an attempt to do that. Many sites do not support user reviewership at all, and Punknews has built its structure around this freedom. Now, with qualified staff writers and our great editors, you can expect a high caliber of reviews when you see that bold title. It's for the benefit of everyone: the industry who supports us, the musicians who deserve a well written and informed review, and the fans, to whom I, as a reviewer, strive to provide the best and most informative review as I can.

I don't see that bold reviews are meant, in any way, to demean or connote elitism, or to break the solidarity of the punk rock scene. Nor do I see it as an issue of ranking. Please understand that staff writers and editors that maintain the Punknews site put in massive amounts of time and energy to keep this community going. This is our work. This is what we are doing for the scene and for the music. But to me, a bolded review is simply meant to convey our work as staff. My opinions and reviews may not be any better or more qualified than one submitted by a patron, and I encourage everyone to read both staff and user reviews. I have been provided a forum and a means for my voice to be heard as a staff member of this site, where I put extensive time and energy into reviewing music weekly. I am committed to keeping this site running, and I‚??m exited to be here.

- Jonathan

Anonymous (March 26, 2003)

i completely agree with the dashboard influence... a little deeper voice but i totally hear it. i like it though. whoever thinks dashboard isn't a rock band...just check out spin magazine...carrabba plastered all over that shit. emo doesn't mean it's not mainstream rock...emotional...which copeland is. good review.

Anonymous (March 25, 2003)

Wish I did some proof reading.


Anonymous (March 25, 2003)

I have to agree with whomever said this CD is a rock CD. I would also say it is similar to Elliot in a way, but without the badass bassist. This is a great debut for a band, which will be hard to surpass. I think the review was good, but the reviewer should have listened to it many more time. At first I wasnt excited about this release, but now It's on repeat all day long.

Face The Music Touring

bruceless (March 25, 2003)

AATTN: Punknews.org readers:

Sign this petition here regarding the new bold print review listing system.
Keep in mind, this aims for a real goal but has been created in with a sense of humor and the awareness of the actual (lack of) urgency of this situation. Though for the record, I mean every notion this petition suggests. Thank you.

ommaddon (March 25, 2003)

Scott from Comp USA,

Thanks for the honesty. I've been frequenting Punknews for about 3 years now, so I'm aware of slander. Nice to know you're having a productive day at work!

- Jonathan

Anonymous (March 25, 2003)

I have to agree w/ sickboi here, I honestly thought I was reading the paper I just wrote about operating systems, just insert instruments where the basic machine cycle is.

I'm not discourging the reviewer at all, it is a really good review, just not what I'm looking for in a review.

Feel free to ignore me though, but welcome aboard Jonathan, I'm sure you'll face more slander than what you got here. As most people at this website are just cold, simple minded people.

- Scott
(Live from CompUSA!)

ommaddon (March 25, 2003)


As written:

fire this reviewer. little kids need to grow up

Thanks Mr./Miss Anonymous. I appreciate it. Perhaps when you learn to write, speak, and not resort to such trite comments as above, you can be in a position have some say in my employment. Until then, stay anonymous.

- Jonathan

ommaddon (March 25, 2003)

As I live in Los Angeles, and not Europe, I do not stay abreast of releases and ongoings there. I do hope you are enjoying Left and Leaving.

Copeland does NOT sound like Coldplay to me, though I admittedly do not listen to that band much. I can hear some Gin Blossoms...I do hear major Dashboard influences in melody structure and vocal patterns...especially the later Dashboard stuff. But whoever Copeland is "sounding like" is the exact point of my review. There's really no original sound here. Take whatever emo band you want...whatever soft mainstream rock band you want...and you can probably form a reasonable argument for Copeland "sounding" like that prior band. There's really no orginality here. That's the point. I don't particularly care what genre Copeland wants to group themselves in. Is what passes as emo really all that different from most mainstream relationship rock nowadays? I don't think so. Emo really isn't anything anymore...it's a shell of its origins. Indie rock? Emo? Copeland seems to be some bastardized form of it both.

To the comment that my voice is too similiar to Scott/Aubin/Adam.... Well....I've done three reviews thus far.... give me some time...geez such quick critics aren't we.

- Jonathan

Anonymous (March 25, 2003)

Please excuse my spelling. What was I thinking . Im sorry.

Left and Leaving was re released in Europe in August w/ live stuff. Way to know your shit.

Are you going to call me on anything else? I think I might have used a comma wrong somewhere.

viva la note,

FortyMinutesWest (March 25, 2003)

The term ambient is almost as annoying as the term screamo.

Anonymous (March 25, 2003)

this reviewer wasn't very right on. copeland sounds nothing like dashboard or weakerthans. They sound more like gin blossoms, matthew, coldplay, etc. They don't really have anything , nor want anything, to do with the 'emo' scene. definitely more of an ambient pop band. way more of mainstream feel to it. fire this reviewer. little kids need to grow up

Anonymous (March 25, 2003)

(below was me)

Anonymous (March 25, 2003)

While I appreciate this reviewer's ability to write, and strong sentence structure ability (far superior to my own), I would have liked to have seen a new staff member with a little diversity. Something that doesn't sound the same as Scott/Aubin. That Brandon Sideleau (sp) kid does some pretty good stuff.

ommaddon (March 25, 2003)

Why are you even mentoining The Weakerthans in the same sentance as this crap. Left and Leaving hasnt left my rotation in the months since its release.

A. I mention The Weakerthans, particularly the album you speak of over their previous album, Fallow, because of the similarities in the slower, quiet moments of each. e.g. the use of guitar, piano. I believe it is evident from the review that much more of a comparison is made towards Dashboard Confessional. I do hear threads of The Weakerthan's structure, especially in Beneath Medicine Tree's "California" and "When Finally Set Free." The drums in the latter scream Weakerthan's style.

B. Rearrange some letters there...try "sentence" and "mentioning." Easy stuff...

C. Left and Leaving was recorded over three years ago. Months?

D. I never implied that Left and Leaving was a lesser album than Copeland's effort. In my opinion The Weakerthans are a far superior band. Fallow is an excellent album. Left and Leaving is still good, but I prefer the former.

Anonymous (March 25, 2003)

Why are you even mentoining The Weakerthans in the same sentance as this crap. Left and Leaving hasnt left my rotation in the months since its release.


maverick (March 25, 2003)

As for this album:
The first time I listened to this album I completely wrote it off as yet another band ripping off "Clarity"-era Jimmy Eat World.

Now I can't get the damn disc out of my CD player.

It's spotty at times, but it's a very impressive debut, and it conjurs up images of the softer side of Elliott [circa "False Cathedrals"], among other things. Definitely worth a listen.


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