Three albums in, 'Opium' sees Mark Geary in a confessional yet not always downbeat mood. A singer-songwriter who honed his craft in America, and still plays there quite extensively, Geary will always find it hard to sell his brand of sentimental introspection in the somewhat crowded marketplace occupied by Irish singer-songwriters.

That's not to say that there's nothing on this album that would make you want to run out and buy; just that with the multitude of singer-songwriters - Paddy, Glen, Damo etc etc - it is fair to say that 'Opium' might slip under the radar of the Irish album-buying public.

This is a pity. Short and snappy, a half-an-hour or so, with most songs coming in around the three-minute mark, the album isn't one for collective jams or long instrumentals. What you get is a collection of songs about life and love and the times we live in. It probably won't change your world or blow you away, but it's a nice collection all the same.

'Facing the Fall', a duet with Ann Scott, stands out in every way. A lackadaisical whistled intro, á la 'Patience' by Guns n' Roses, gentle drums and a smattering of piano, Scott's vocals are beautifully restrained and Geary's almost whispered chorus of the song is truly beautiful. The only gripe you could have is that in today's post-'O' world, it's hard to avoid the Damien/Lisa comparisons. Taken on its own, however, it's a real find. This and 'See-Saw', are compositions which hint at a high level of lyrical maturity.

Later on the album, 'Tuesday' finds Geary in more of an uptempo mood - rocking out, as much as that is to say Mark Geary rocks out. As the song builds towards a climax, his voice, and the overdubs near the finale, lend the song a sense of urgency and intensity sadly lacking on some parts of 'Opium'.

'Angel', the third song in and one of the singles, is a case in point. An acoustic affair with some electric guitar over it, Geary's singing is overwrought with passion, but yet it remains somehow soulless. Listening to it you get the feeling it could be any song from a montage of any teen drama show. Its somewhat bland lyrics don't do much to help his case.

'Opium', however, isn't a bad album by any means. It contains a couple of real stunners which you'd come back to again and again. But it also has much which has already been done; too many times by too many artists.

Padraic Geoghegan