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Heaven On a Popsicle Stick

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Album Review

From the ashes of the Opal Foxx Quartet rose Smoke, a band led by a shamanistic cross-dressing speed freak named simply Benjamin. Releasing just two full-length albums during its brief career, Smoke disbanded after Benjamin's death in 1999 from complications arising from HIV. Although largely ignored outside of the band's hometown of Atlanta and the surrounding area, Smoke still managed to win applause from critics nationwide and carve out a dedicated cult audience. This underground groundswell of support culminated in a 2003 documentary film focusing on Benjamin and Smoke. With a sound that was elegant and majestic, yet bluesy and seedy, Smoke's first album, Heaven on a Popsicle Stick, used cello, banjo, cornet, guitar, and drums to accompany Benjamin's reports from Atlanta's sketchier side. His vocal style recalled the spoken word ramblings of Tom Waits, but his despair and alienation came from a much more personal place, as evident on the confessional "Freak" and "Luke's Feet," a song about a picture of Luke Perry's feet that is as funny as it is sad. Anyone familiar with Smoke's second album, Another Reason to Fast, would do well to search this one out as well: They're very similar in tone quality. Since Benjamin's death, Smoke has achieved almost mythical status within the Atlanta underground scene, and the band remains a powerful influence there despite a thin discography that wafts in and out of print.

Heaven On a Popsicle Stick, Smoke
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