Abandoned Pools

Humanistic

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The Warner-distributed debut by Tommy Walter's alter ego, Abandoned Pools (he wrote, sang, and played almost everything here), is a curious culmination of ghostlike voices from the rock & roll ether. Walter sounds a lot like a harder-rock version of Tommy Gnosis, the character from Hedwig and the Angry Inch: vulnerable, lost, and wanting desperately to put it all into terms that are rock & roll enough to make him stand out from the crowd. But there's also the tenderness and the deep desire to write love song hooks like John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls. And as if this weren't enough, this Woodland Hills, CA, kid is as pissed off as Kurt Cobain and obviously worships that trait among many others in his idol. What that adds up to is: Who is Tommy Walter? He's certainly encompassed all of the strands that create a musical persona, but do they make a personality? The songs themselves -- especially the dark, hooky "Mercy Kiss" (the single), the overdriven guitar-crunching refrain and bridge in "Monster," and the highly textured shifty-shuffle rock of "Sunny Day" -- hint that this kid's got something to say. And then there's the souled-out girl chorus-sounding backing on "Ruin Your Life," a shimmering reflection on desolation and the possibilities in its aftermath. "Seed"'s electronic hard rock and elongated riffs push the needle into the red and offer this kid's jaded view as a way out, a way toward something else. Perhaps listeners will discover what that is on the next disc. The ace production of Paul Q. Kolderie and Sean Slade handled the boards with great sensitivity and flair, erecting a dynamic, fluid alt-rock monolith. By he sound of this, Walter has more -- and better -- recordings in him as he emerges from behind his wall of identities, but this is an auspicious debut nonetheless.

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