The National Pool are a bit wet.
When Gnarls Barkley became the first download only number one single in the UK, for a brief minute it seemed as though there could be a massive change in the way the record industry worked or at least a new wave of innovative music rushing through to take advantage of the change in situation. Of course, it took a matter of minutes for this idea to be punctured with Jarvis Cocker ruminating on the fact that it was a shame that the first download number one sounded so much like a Jamiroquai hit, as opposed to being of the future. And it is in this context that the album from The National Pool, a duo from Nashivlle, is being reviewed.
If it just came along and wanted to be reviewed as normal there wouldn't be a problem but the press release and the band's website made such a big deal out of them fully embracing the new media and encapsulating the D.I.Y work ethic. If the album's good enough to stand on its own accord there shouldn't be any issue with how it's distributed and immediately it just smacks of trying too hard to please.
However, this is supposed to be a review of the album as opposed to reviewing politics of record industry, so let's get back to the case in hand.
Very quickly, the album sets its stall out and doesn't deviate too far from its course. It's a very glitchy and light electronic album, perhaps reminiscent of Radiohead in a slight experimental phase or a more relaxed version of Nine Inch Nails during 'The Downward Spiral' era, yes; electronic coldness is the order of the day for the music here.
The vocals are a contrast though and help bring through the idea of there being songs as opposed to experimental pieces, and undoubtedly save the record. Sounding quite English indie, comparisons to Elbow or Doves keep ringing in your head, perhaps as a way of telling you that there an element of the far-reaching anthem to the delivery, 'Sand' sounding very much like one of these bands.
Being able to pigeonhole a band's sound so easily isn't always a bad thing as it can make it easier for potential fans to get into them and it marks them out as being liked by some but it just seems a bit too obvious. There's some good moments on the album, some of the bass lines grind along well and when the beats come thick and fast, it gets quite interesting. There may not be enough of these moments over the course of the album.
'The National Pool' feels as comfortable and as recognisable as an old pair of socks but even after repeated listens, that's about how exciting the record feels as well.