Soft Pack – The Soft Pack

January 01, 1970



By the end of this decade, none of the components of the
term “guitar rock album” may mean anything anymore. We may not care much about
guitars or rock or even albums. But if we do (and personally, I intend to, even
it turns me into a raging anachronism), the Soft Pack’s self-titled debut will
surely be one of the great ones. This is, quite simply, one of the best and
most enjoyable straight-up rock albums to come along in forever, a reason to
get up in the morning, if you’re looking for one, and certainly a reason to
keep digging through the cultural detritus.


The Soft Pack, out of San
Diego, started out as the Muslims, ran into some
trouble around the name and (with a practiced eye for the inoffensive)
rechristened themselves after a type of sexual aide. As the Muslims, they were
primarily Matty McLoughlin, guitar player, Matt Lamkin singer guitarist, and
whatever drummer, bass player combo they cold entice to play with them that
week. Eventually, Dave Lantzman (bass) and Brian Hill (drums) stepped in on a
more permanent basis and, now, on the evidence of this first full-length,
represent something of a secret weapon for the band. The songs that jump out first
– “Answer to Yourself,” “Move Along,” “Parasites” and most of all “Pull Out” are
furiously bass driven, tightly rhythmic. There’s a raffish charm in the electro-shocked
raggedness of guitars, an unexpected high of 1960s garage harmonies, but mostly
you are caught up in relentless forward motion, bumped along on bass and shot
through with snare and cymbals.


The Soft Pack cites R.E.M. alongside Wire, Television and
the Vaselines as influences, and there’s definitely a sweetness hidden in their
jittery, propulsion-crazed songs. “Ah C’mon” has the drone-submerged
melodic-ness of “Radio Free Europe”, while “Down on Loving” pushes glorious,
wistful harmonies a shade too fast for self-pity, but not hard enough to erase
vulnerability. The best song, though, is “Pull Out”, oddly enough a call for California secession
(and nothing to do with a primitive form of birth control). Anchored by
a growling, exorable bass line, embellished with abrupt slashed out guitar
chords, it feels like the archetype for a forward-moving garage rock anthem,
something so perfect that it must have always been there. If “Pull Out” isn’t
my favorite song of 2010, then something very, very good is due to happen
before the end of the year.


The Soft Pack is the hardest kind of band to write about,
the kind that manages to outwrite and outplay the competition without employing
any obvious gimmicks. You won’t discover anything new about music here, or hear
any weird instruments or have to figure out what frigging time signature
they’re playing in. It’s simple, it’s perfect, it’s great rock and roll. Surely
you’ve got a little room for that in your collection? 


Standout Tracks: “Pull Out” “Answer to Yourself” “Move Along” JENNIFER KELLY


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