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Album Review

Having found the performer-ridden streets of Dublin not to his liking, Irishman Mark Geary headed to New York and the altogether more forgiving surroundings of the Sin É café — though opening for a young Jeff Buckley could hardly be considered an easy gig. Considering the sizable Irish diaspora in that city, Geary's songwriting hasn't quite coddled the "homeland" in the same way as other notable figures may have. Though touches of the Frames' tortured optimism may have crept in through collaborators Dave and Karl Odlum, Geary's music can more closely be aligned with another tragic American, Elliott Smith, and labelmate Josh Ritter. Opium, Geary's third album proper (1999's Mark Geary was shuffled and re-released as 33 1/3 Grand Street in 2002), is cool and understated as ever. He's traded in the electronic beats of his earlier material and the last trappings of the Dublin accent have disappeared from his singing voice, perhaps not coincidental given the increased emphasis on his vocals. In their place are more intricate and progressive arrangements, melding the best of American folk influences with the subtle movements of Radiohead, and even contemporary Glen Hansard. Opener "Cold Little Fire" and lead single "Tuesday" are the most obviously transcendent tracks, the former resting on a very slight reggae groove that never quite says as much, and the latter a more expansive folk number that boasts harmonized vocals reminiscent of Elliott Smith. Opium's greatest strength, though, is its consistency: at 11 tracks and barely 35 minutes, it embodies every positive connotation of the word "lean," and is far and away Geary's grandest achievement to date.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1973, Mark Geary is one of eight brothers and sisters raised during a time of extreme political and social upheaval, part of the reason there was a mass exodus of young Irishmen in the late '80s and early '90s. Geary, if fact, was one of those emigrants; he arrived in New York in 1992 at the ripe age of 19, and gradually established himself as one of New York's most popular singer/songwriters, with the local press christening Geary the next in a line of honest and personal...
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Opium, Mark Geary
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