Abandoned Pools is the brainchild of one Tommy Walter, who previously played bass in Eels. They were very much the pet project of Mark ‘E’ Everett however, and a band as bleak and intense as Eels could be meant that Walters was soon on the lookout for a solo project. Abandoned Pools is that very solo project, and first impressions are that he could easily follow the success of his former cohorts.
It’s easy to see why Walter may have felt frustrated in The Eels. As well as writing, singing and playing the vast majority of the instruments here, he also shares a co-producing credit. He also possesses a keen ear for a melody – this album has more hooks than your average fisherman’s basket. The record swings from generic metal through Prince-like funk to mid-paced ballads, yet never feels disjointed.
It is clear that The Smashing Pumpkins are a major influence on Walter. Sometimes this is a good thing – opening track The Remedy recreates Billy Corgan’s mammoth guitar playing yet Walter sings without Corgan’s customary whine. However, Seed is more or less the Pumpkins’ Zero with new lyrics. Elsewhere, the inevitable Eels comparisons are unavoidable – Start Over borrows the quirky feel of Everett’s band, and adds some subtle strings to pleasing effect.
Despite the fact that Walter sometimes wears his influences a bit too much on his sleeve, this is certainly an album of more high points than low. Blood is a particular stand out track, the simple but effective melody being wedded to some uplifting lyrics (“Just take it easy on yourself…I know you beat up on yourself, it’s in your blood”). Elsewhere, LVBD demonstrates some monstrous riffing not heard this side of a Metallica album, and is followed by the sweet soulfulness of Ruin Your Life (featuring Walter playing a French horn). Throughout, Paul Kolderie and Sean Slade (Radiohead, Buffalo Tom, Hole) add their usual assured production.
Overall, this is an intriguing debut with enough quality to suggest that Abandoned Pools will produce something really special in the not too distant future. It has taken nearly 18 months for Humanistic to be released in the UK. Hopefully the follow-up will be with us a bit quicker.