It is not often a band changes name midstream, and usually they do this to avoid conflict or legal issues with someone else that shares the name, like the Suede/London Suede or Yazoo/Yaz. The Soft Pack started their career as The Muslims; they changed their name to The Soft Pack after meeting with ignorant comments about the name of the band. The first time they flew onto my radar was when they supported Friendly Fires and White Lies on the NME Presents Tour date in New York City (Bowery Ballroom, 27 March 2009). I was at the show with my concert going partner (Belladonna), and we were both surprised at just how energetic and enrapturing they were live: without knowing a single song, we were sucked right in. Now releasing their second full length, “Soft Pack” (2 February 2010 in the USA), the band delivers on their take of garage rock, with a few new tricks.
What I love about this album is the sense of abandon. This is thriving music, in-your-face attitude, take-it-or-leave-it posturing. In many ways, on this album The Soft Pack offers up purer rock ‘n roll than most of their brethren. There is no grandstanding, though there are some kick ass guitar riffs. And unlike their previous music, there is more of a California surfer feel on this album, which was more than abundant when I saw them live last year. But there are definite departures from the upbeat tempos, stripped down arrangements they have come to be known for. For instance, “Mexico” flirts with lounge, but avoids any of those trite clichés of incorporating Latin feel to a song just because of its title. (And the lead guitar playing at the end, a melodic arrangement almost not compatible with the rhythm, is beautifully pulled off!)
A rose is a rose, no matter what you want to call it. And though much could be made about the band’s name shift, they are still the same band they have always been. Even though I love the perfection in their new directions, in their experimentation, they really hook you best when they are just being themselves. Like with “Answer to Yourself,” fit to be a new mantra; the simple rhythm, the tight accompaniment, just draws you in, while Matt Lamkin sings: “You gotta answer to yourself, you can’t depend on anyone else, you gotta know where you stand, know what’s in your head, yeah you gotta answer to yourself.” Not only can these guys throw together an amazing song, they may just be poised to be the next voice of a generation.
Here we are in the second month of 2010, and great music continues to roll on in. For anyone who happened to have the serendipitous experience of discovering this band earlier, this album is only going to make you appreciate them more. They deliver the same musical thumbing, while incorporating a few new elements. It is organic growth; that kind of non-disarming subtle changes that are comforting and still reinforces everything that was there before. For those just hearing about The Soft Pack for the first time, “The Soft Pack” is a perfect introductory point: an excellent album that is full of blustering guitars, amazing drumming, and memorable songs.
2. Down On Lovin’
3. Answer To Yourself
4. Move Along
5. Pull Out
6. More or Less
7. Tides of Time
Keep up with The Soft Pack at their homepage, MySpace, and Twitter.
Here is their video for “Answer to Yourself” from the fbglima YouTube Channel.