written by Chris Familton
The cyclical nature of guitar music is such that the recycling of genres is happening at a quicker pace with every turn. As soon as you read that grunge is back there is another garage rock explosion on the horizon or prog rock is the flavour of the month. Thankfully the bands that rise above the hype are the ones that manage to take retro sounds, often multiple ones, and sculpt their own niche. The Soft Pack have been touted as the new best thing over the last 6 months and thankfully they live up to the hyperbole.
Coming out of LA via San Diego (the next US hotspot after Brooklyn and Portland?) the quartet have carved out a regressive yet refreshing self-titled album. Previously known as The Muslims they released a bunch of singles and a limited release compilation called Extinction before putting their efforts into the first official LP.
Essentially The Soft Pack are an indie/garage rock band in the vein of The Strokes and Australia’s Eddie Current Suppression Ring. They thrive on energy, attitude and the sound of their instruments that screams organic, live and raw. On songs like Pull Out you can picture the band twitching and sweating on stage, wringing out the tightly wound riffs and rhythms.
What does set these guys apart from the other garage rock pretenders is their propensity for incorporating other sounds into their mix. Psych organ chords ring out on Move Along, an English indie jangle winds its way through More Or Less while strains of The Cure’s 80’s guitar sound abounds on Tides Of Time.
The one dead set standout track is Answer To Yourself that sounds like a long lost b-side from The Saints. With its slacker/self motivation lyrics it sends a positive message via an infectious rolling rhythm and economical yet eternally catchy riffs. Singer Matt Lamkin has perfected a balance between pop melodies and the angst filled and carefree punk yelling of Eat Gold. The obvious comparison is Julian Casablancas but Lamkin invests enough of his own verve for his style to be influenced by rather than imitating The Strokes’ singer.
Not all manic strum, their LP also gives us some quieter Spoon-ish moments, best exemplified by Mexico with its swirling vibe and reverb laden drift. Lamkin sounds like he’s wandering down a beach at sunset as he sings with melancholic weight before a drunk and staggering guitar tries to steer him home.
The Soft Pack have released a debut that will see them gather a lot of attention for all the right reasons. Like last year’s Girls they back up the hype with all the right musical ingredients and the key appeal is that the end result is lean, fresh and just the antidote to much of the over inflated pretension that is creeping back into music outside the mainstream.