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Monday, May 3, 2010

Absinthe Junk - Living Ghosts

Absinthe Junk - Living Ghosts
2010, Severe Records

Nashville singer/songwriter/guitarist Blair Bretreiter Smart (who works mononymously as simply "Blair") gets compared to singers such as Amy Lee or Shirley Manson on a regular basis, but the profundity and progressive nature of her songwriting separates her from the pack. Together with Patrick Himes (guitar/keys/backing vox) and Matt Clarke (bass), Blair formed Absinthe Junk in mid-2009. Absinthe Junk also appears as Pink Floyd tribute band Eclipse, playing over 50 dates on the East Coast and Midwest in 2009. On Absinthe Junk's debut album, Living Ghosts, you'll hear flashes of the dreamy Psychedelia of Pink Floyd, as well as the smash and grab progressive and alt metal that serves as the other horizon of the band's range. All of this will be delivered with instrumentation and construction that's anything but typical in rock n roll. Absinthe Junk leaves all options on the table.

Absinthe Junk hits the heavy funk hard on “Commercialized Waste” in a wide-open arrangement that show’s off lead vocalist Blair’s dynamic voice. The song is highly enjoyable and a bit out of the box, with a tremendous amount of energy and complexity in the instrumentation underneath. “Road To Damnation” makes great use of Blair’s violin in a hard rock instrumental that will leave you shaking your head. “Dragonflies In Hurricanes” has one of the nicer melody lines on the album, and the vocals are solid, but there’s a distracted, disconnected feel to the song. “Sweet Vaccine” is a big, mid-tempo rocker. The energy level here is flat, and the spark is missing that existed in songs such as “Commercialized Waste” and “Road To Dementia”, proving that volume alone can’t represent emotion. “Assassin” features Blair in her best voice. While the arrangement is interesting, and Blair’s voice is a great listen, the bigger than life presentation that she’s capable of (and the song calls for) isn’t here. Blair belts, but the theatricality gets left at the door.

Absinthe Junk is a big band with a big sound that’s a bit off the beaten path. When on their game, Absinthe Junk is capable of some pretty impressive things. Living Ghosts finds Absinthe Junk traversing the highs and lows. The moments when Living Ghosts misses the bar are when Absinthe Junk fails to match the requisite passion and theatrics to the individual songs. Living Ghosts is a solid start.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Absinthe Junk at or Living Ghosts is available as either a CD or Download from Digital copies are also available via iTunes.

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