“I think a lot of the pop fans are turned off by the rock mode we were in,” says Poole’s Harry Evans, addressing the reception of his band’s sophomore effort, The Late Engagement. “And on Alaska Days, a lot of the rock people were turned off because it was so pop. So I think we’ve gotten in a position where we’ve tried to please everybody, and I’m not sure it worked.”

Engagement’s increased firepower resulted from Poole’s decision to go from quartet to quintet by bringing in roadie Pall Masters on bass, allowing former bassist Jeff Booth to switch to guitar. Although the disc was recorded twice before Poole was ready to release it, at the time the decision appeared to Evans to be a logical choice. While the rote guitar solos on such tracks as “The Only One (I Am)” and “Modern Way” don’t support that premise, a number of other cuts skillfully meld the two Pooles. “La Chanson de la Voiture du Pompiér” integrates Byrdsian axwork with gorgeous Pet Sounds-ish harmonies, and the uptempo breakup tales of “Glumb” and “Like Anybody” nicely update the Raspberries.

Nevertheless, dictated in part by drummer Brian Barnhart’s recent decision to leave the combo, the remaining Poole players have again re-evaluated, deciding to break with Engagement’s sound; rocking out too loudly just isn’t for them. “For now, I’m gonna drum up front and still sing,” says Evans. “We’re not going to include many Late Engagement songs in our live set list.”

While returning to Poole’s lighter and sweeter Days may finally make Evans content, he’s aware that there are some, like the folks involved with such indie-pop totems as Simple Machines, TeenBeat, and Chickfactor, who for reasons he can’t quite explain, have seemingly never embraced Poole in any of its guises. “Us and Racecar are the bastard sons of the D.C. pop scene. I played in the Lilys, and I’m friends with [ex-Velocity Girler] Archie [Moore], but I’m not part of that clique. I’m under the impression that they don’t like what we do, but if that’s not the case, we’ll do a Simple Machines single if they ask us.” Not entirely interested in dwelling on any of this conjecture, Evans quickly changes the subject, confidently adding, “We already have half of our next album written and hope to have it out by spring of ’98.”—Steve Kiviat