The Soft Pack - The Soft Pack [12 inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Soft Pack

The Soft Pack [12 inch] (2010)


It's an undoubtedly tired argument, but so few 'buzz bands' deserve the hype that's often incessantly bestowed upon them by a constantly growing number of keyboard cowboys, who are dead-set on being the ones to 'make' a band. These days, being an inferior act and playing subpar retreads of songs that were better written and better performed in past decades by more talented and forward-thinking musicians is seemingly all that's needed for some folks with an opinion and a basic knowledge of HTML to hop on the tubes and do some premature anointing. Nothing is new and nearly everything out there was done better the first time by someone else.

San Diego's the Soft Pack dealt with this a little bit back when they called themselves the Muslims, and a mere three years and one name change for the better later, they're validating their hype. The band's eponymous debut is a quick, indelible and wholly enjoyable experience that ought to be appreciated by hipsters and punks alike.

Now, like a lot of bands of this ilk, the Soft Pack unapologetically wear their influences on their sleeve--the garage-ridden grit is palpable in speedier tracks like "C'Mon," "Down on Loving" and "Flammable," calling to mind forefathers such as the Stooges and fellow San Diegoans (San Diegans?) Hot Snakes, while other songs here like the extremely catchy "Answer to Yourself" and the deceptively melodic "More or Less" use slower foundations--we'll call it 'less crazy' or 'more Kinks, less Stooges'--and more conventional, but no less effective choices in sound.

Being from southern California, the surf rock overtures the band makes in songs like the plodding, bass-heavy "Mexico" and the jagged "Pull Out" aren't unwelcome. In fact, the Soft Pack play these songs with aplomb, and as a result they fail to sever any momentum despite their longer running times and slower tempos. To the delight of ears everywhere they keep the reverb to a minimum--which, these days, seems like an unfortunate and unnecessary requisite for any band wanting to create a surf-centric sound--allowing the songs to actually want to be listened to more than once without the aid of psychotropic substances.

The Soft Pack do have a couple of curveballs in their repertoire. The synth parts in "Move Along" cause a few, fleeting moments of weirdness, but the way it anchors and accentuates the catchiness of the chorus is undeniable. The band also elects to end this album with its two longest songs, the aforementioned "Mexico" and "Parasites," the latter a noisy, mid-tempo jaunt north of five minutes that sees the band really pulling out all the stops. Jagged guitars, pounding drums and the understated yet slightly attitudinal vocals of Matt Lamkin help keep the song interesting throughout and send out The Soft Pack on a high note.