Music Reviews

The Soft Pack Strapped

(Mexican Summer) Buy it from Insound Rating - 6/10

The Soft Pack have a taken a simple but effective method to their music. Take a hint of the rattle and hum of The Hot Snakes, mixed with a bit of The Replacements' catchy hooks and out pops out Strapped, The Soft Pack's third full length following their 2010 self-titled. The San Diego natives turned LA transplants have crafted a solid garage rock opus in their latest offering. Strapped stands as a more polished creation over the band's last two releases, which held on to more of the band's punk roots. As Charles Darwin proved, without evolution you're as good as dead in the water. In Strapped, the band sounds more honed compared to their last works. Their grip on straight forward rock has loosened up a bit, allowing their sound to drift between lines of garage and college rock, all while not turning off those who were drawn to their straightforward sound.

The album opens with Saratoga, a two minute time capsule back to the band's early days when they went by the Muslims. Considering that the band started playing after 9/11, some bad press forced the name change. Saratoga follows the classic formula - a three chord strum, paired with a rumbling bass line layered over a steady hi-hat and snare. The song doesn't come off as anything new but stands as a solid introduction into tracks like Tallboy, the aptly titled tune detailing the downfall of a drunkard. Tallboy carries the band into a different musical direction compared to Saratoga. Where Saratoga falls into the band's early days, Tallboy sounds very similar to something that the Replacement would have put out in the late 80s, a solid keyboard driven track that builds up to a catchy chorus that has frontman Matt Lamkin chanting out "T-A-L-L-B-O-Y" via the spirit of Paul Westerberg. Midway through the album, Chinatown kicks up the pace again, returning to the three chord methodology found in Saratoga; it's not a bad song but still much of the same old. Oxford Ave. sees the band utilising horns to compliment their take on a jazz-punk impromptu set, a steady rhythm section interrupted by a few seconds of Sonic Youth-ish noise. Right after is Everything I Know, which strangely comes off as a highly produced single that pays tribute to The Killers, where Lamkin decided to drop his laid-back vocal style and take a few notes from Brandon Flowers. The album closes with Densmore's Gone, a twangy, surf-rock jam that sounds like it could have been the B-side to a Cramps' song.

Overall, Strapped's thirty-something minutes of southern California rock doesn't turn the page on anything new, but is still a worthy listen. The album holds true to the band's striped-down signature sound from their last two albums, with a sprinkling of a few stand out tracks. Where tracks like Tallboy and Everything I Know help to broaden the band's sound base, the variation between the tracks gives the feel of being more of a collection of songs as opposed to a cohesive album.