Man, I almost forgot about Abandoned Pools. Almost. I mean, I still have my copy of Humanistic, the debut by former eel Tommy Walter’s beefed-up rock “band.” But I haven’t listened to it for quite a while, not so much because there’s anything wrong with it, but rather because in four years’ time, so much has come and gone, it’s easy to have overlooked a good, not necessarily great, alternative rock album. That Walter was even still playing alt-rock in a post-grunge world should have been enough to make it stand out, yet Humanistic never became as big as the potential it had to be. Two years after the last time I gave it a spin, I’m glad to have a reminder in Armed to the Teeth, the follow-up to Abandoned Pools’ rocking debut.
For the most part, Armed to the Teeth picks up where Humanistic left off. The guitars are still big, Walter’s voice is still bordering on emo without being so, and moody ethereal verses bridge the gigantic, anthemic choruses. “Lethal Killers” and “The Catalyst” are alt-rock raveups that echo a similar sound to Humanistic‘s “Mercy Kiss” and “The Remedy,” two songs which found moderate success on modern rock radio. “Tighter Noose” finds Walter moving away from chunky guitar riffs in favor of a more atmospheric and gentle balladry, one with a fair share of electronics to back up Walter’s soft falsetto. As alternative rock usually goes, however, the song does erupt into stadium rock loudness during the chorus. Every modern rocker does have a soft side, you know.
Weird feedback noises open “Waiting to Panic,” one of the better songs on the record, which finds melody and subtlety winning over instead of overblown distortion. The chorus is still as catchy as they come, however, which is one thing that Walter manages to get right just about every time. “Hunting (The Universe Breaks My Heart)” opens with piano, veering dangerously close to Five For Fighting levels of cheese. The title track makes up for it, however, by taking cues from Robert Smith and putting a little melancholy into its rock `n’ roll.
There’s very little on Armed to the Teeth that’s going to sound new or innovative to anyone. It just happens to be a good pop record under the guise of alternative rock, the likes of which hardly anybody makes anymore. If nothing else, it’s a reminder that Abandoned Pools never went anywhere and their songs, in fact, are still quite good.
Remy Zero – The Golden Hum
Year of the Rabbit – Year of the Rabbit
Placebo – Sleeping With Ghosts
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.