After Toad the Wet Sprocket disbanded in 1998, one of modern rock's simplistic mainstays tarnished many threads found in the ever-changing sound of alternative music. Glen Phillips, mastermind singer/songwriter with an entirely original passion, refrained from music for quite a while. The integral motivation behind his other band had made the breakup bittersweet, and Phillips focused on raising a family. But as clichéd as it might sound, a songwriter can never stay away from the beauty of a song for too long. The new millennium saw a replenished and revived Phillips, and the release of his first solo album, Abulum. This time around, he sticks to grainy acoustics, and lyrically he's become more basic. Gone are the glossy fairytale swan songs, and Phillips goes for an aesthetic not found in his previous work. The downplaying is welcomed, however. He's more personable, seen in a new and quite charming light due to his role as a father; therefore a fresh humor is noticeable. But what makes Phillips so enchanting is his way of detecting social discomforts and taboos. "Men Just Leave" plays with adult responsibility, with Phillips calling out his own gender while giving credit to the opposite sex for its continuous dedication to children, work, love, and spirituality. "Drive By" is self-explanatory in depicting a good boy gone bad due to racism, social phobias, and the internal ignorance within a family. "Back on My Feet" is his own reflection, perhaps a look back on post-Toad trials and tribulations he's endured. It's deeply therapeutic in recognizing the pain and sorrow, yet a solace is present. "Darkest Hour" is depressing, for the death of his father looms over the production of the song. Again, a common peace is found. That's what makes Abulum a bit difficult to digest at first, but Phillips' emotional intent to make a record for himself is what makes it all the more enjoyable. It will take time to shape the initial sounds he wants to capture. But Phillips will indeed take his time doing so. His poetic nature is right on, and Abulum is a decent serving of what's to come from one of the sweetest modern rock artists of the '90s.
AllMusic Review by MacKenzie Wilson