Abigail's Ghost - Selling Insincerity (Aesperus)
review by Joe del Tufo

Track Listing

1. Mazurka (1:04)
2. Close (5:48)
3. Waiting Room (4:38)
4. Love Sounds (6:48)
5. Sellout (4:18)
6. Dead People's Review (4:45)
7. Monochrome (5:03)
8. Windows (4:42)
9. Cerulean Blue (7:44)
10. Seeping (5:54)
11. Mother May I? (5:42)

They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

Back in 1995, when Porcupine Tree released The Sky Moves Sideways (as well as the subsequent single Voyage 34), critics lashed out at the band’s close Pink Floyd influences.  Indeed, it was difficult for fans of The Wall not to find themselves humming unintended lyrics over the opening riffs of Voyage 34, and imagining David Gilmour crafting the disc’s delicious solos.  The influences were undeniable, and the band eventually evolved into the darker, more aggressive sound they produce today.  Ironically, it could be argued that Porcupine Tree’s sound is a little too unique, making them a challenge to market.

So flash forward 12 years later, to the interesting collaboration of Joshua Theriot and Kenneth (No Relation) Wilson.  Having originally met at the Berklee College of Music three years ago, the pair basically crafted Selling Insincerity remotely, sharing and sculpting the music via the web and ultimately recording it one intense week in New Orleans.  There are places in Selling Insincerity that bleed its influences, ranging from Porcupine Tree/ Blackfield, through Tool, Nine Inch Nails and King Crimson.  In fact, another writer overhearing me playing Selling Insincerity excitedly assumed I had gotten an advance copy of the forthcoming Porcupine Tree EP.  The influences are there and they are, much like Porcupine Tree’s were in 1995, undeniable. 

Theriot’s vocals are heavily influenced by Steven Wilson, as is (Kenneth) Wilson’s production.  There are places- the opening sections of Cerulean Blue (Tinto Brass) and Sleeping (Blackfield’s The Hole In Me)  that are certainly targets for critics seeking unfiltered mimicry.  And I do agree that in places it’s a bit much.  If this is something that you get hung up on, you’re not going to be a fan.  At least of this incarnation of Abigail’s Ghost. But if you’re willing to let go a little and listen into Selling Insincerity, there is plenty to like.  First off, we need more bands like this.  Those of us who are Tool and Porcupine Tree fans know how few quality bands there are right now, and how long we have to wait between new releases.  Creating music like this is a risk, not only because of the lack of radio support, but also because of how difficult it is to cultivate a fanbase.  So for their somewhat unfiltered nod to influences, I am willing to be a little patient.

Abigail’s Ghost is certainly a unique beast, and I have to admit it was difficult for me at first to get past my familiarity with their influences enough to appreciate their offerings. Without being disingenuous, this is clearly the product of music lovers.  You can hear flourishes of everything from Pantera through the Beach Boys, and nearly everywhere in between. Surprisingly, as can often be the flaw with projects like these, the music is rarely sterile.  The production is inspired and does a great job of creating depth and dimension.  Simpler tracks like Love Sounds are brought to life with creative effects and a very immersive production.  Theriot’s closing solo on that track is particularly blistering.  And the opening track Close is as close to a Tool/ Porcupine Tree hybrid as you’re ever likely to hear, spirited and aggressive and infectious, as well balanced between those two bands’ respective sounds.

In places where the inspiration is not as obvious, one can actually get how good this band actually is.  One of Selling Insincerity’s highlights is Dead People’s Review, which really shows Abigail’s Ghost standing outside their influences.  The playful, Belew-like solo that closes the track is one of the CD’s highlights.  Mother May I is another standout.  With its Reznor by way of Tool sass, it is still a nod to its influences without being overcome by them.  The cock rock solo near the end is a lot of fun as well.  Windows also arrives as an unexpected twist, almost a throwback pop/rock track that would fit in well on the O.C.  For me, the standout is the soaring Monochrome.  A beautiful anthem, with Gilmour-inflected solos and shimmering soundscapes drawing the listener in.  If nothing else, it seems to me to be the soul of Selling Insincerity, and perhaps as close as the album gets to the true voice of Abigail’s Ghost.

In the end, Abigail’s Ghost are undoubtedly a talented band capable of writing catchy and technically complex tunes.  Taken individually, there’s little to no filler on Selling Insincerity, and I suspect it would be accepted as an immediate classic if not for the similarity to its influences.  Considering the unique circumstances under which this CD came to life, it is shockingly good. I sincerely hope and suspect they will evolve into a more unique identity as their craft develops, and I believe there will be a strong fanbase awaiting them at that juncture. 


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