Music Reviews
The Soft Pack

The Soft Pack The Soft Pack

(Kemado Records) Buy it from Insound Rating - 5/10

The Soft Pack, formerly known as the Muslims, spent most of 2009 shifting between changing names, releasing a few EPs, and, in a way, trying to really aim at their forte. The Muslims EP was an exhilarating, straight shooting statement, with three chord anthems and seductive bass lines that actually got you to pay attention. Even if there existed a lack of variety, that extended play was about the perfect way to end an already mis-identified end-of-decade; it was that last effort to join that charismatic pool of already defunct garage rockers. As vocalist/guitarist Matt Lamkin supposes about the next best thing in debut opener, the utterly simplistic C’mon, the pack will just have to settle for a middle ground for the time being. See, let’s take a breather for a moment and stop assuming that the next best thing will come out in the next few months. Granted, it’ll happen, but the possibility of that happening in the next year or so is highly unlikely.

The Soft Pack apparently has an interest in retracing their steps as a means to maintaining a status quo. Not only did they change the name to avoid ridicule - a good step, if you ask me, even if the Soft Pack is far too tame - but held back to debut their new material for months to finally arrive in the new decade. Instantly, words about the Soft Pack becoming the first new band to start a riotous parade of plenty was, or still is, the talk of the town. Whether the San Diego preppy punks want to follow suit is another issue. As it stands, The Soft Pack are basically a one-trick pony with a lot of conviction and pretty skilled songwriting. But as they retrace to emulate a garage meets proto-punk sound, things start to get in disarray. The Soft Pack, which is practically the same length as their supposed EP, is filled with meaty anthems for the love stricken and estranged, a topic that not many punk bands pursue because it’s just not that pertinent to the genre. Suffice to say, this debut seems to adequately address who The Soft Pack seems to be aiming for: heart-on-sleeve angsty youngsters with the means to sweat it out on the dance floor.

The first half presages a promising batch of songs that, in all honestly, grapple and never let go. There’s some charm to be had in Down on Loving, a two minute heart pulse that goes back and forth between quick tempered banter and some rockabilly guitar work. In Answer to Yourself, Lamkin rightfully advices that you should choose what to believe/ and you don’t take it from anyone else, serving as a cautionary tale for their predisposed success. Pull Up, a particularly un-snotty number that intends to be, continues a pattern of chaotic guitar crunches and glam arrangements, but the battery charges a decent midtempo without much bang. In More or Less, switfing between surf guitars and dual harmonies, Lamkin replicates a younger Jonathan Richman, approaching a female subject and her egomaniacal ways; thankfully, it avoids becoming a hindrance with its self-effacing honesty.

Even if the latter half remains as consistent as it starts off, things begin to fray as they deviate from their comfort zone. Tides of Time may up the ante with a more serious songwriting approach, but what immediately follows it is far from memorable. As Flammable’s opening lines ensue, it’s noticeable how, taken as a whole, the agitated riffs and repetitive verses start to become tiresome. When Mexico tries to spice things up a little with the means to sound distinctive, it unnecessarily deviates from the album’s central rhythmic theme. Mexico, in itself, is yet another dull, yearning stroll down memory lane, with a subdued pacing and quirky lyrics like remember when you came home and I was locked inside, amidst some smug declarations about letting go to avoid conflict.

Taken as a whole, The Soft Pack isn’t exceptionally challenging or memorable, though it does leave space to appreciate a few of its singles. There should be no qualm about underlying the pulsating drumbeats, vicarious guitar lines, and accomplished bass lines that this foursome executes. With a more assertive approach, it may eventually lead to more fundamentally exciting material. Its just a little unfair that this kind of music is accepted as being instantly accomplished by default, when so much of this ground has been covered before. Passion can many times translate to fun, simple, and catchy, but that doesn’t excuse it from being faulty and darned lazy.