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The Soft Pack

The Soft Pack

[Kemado; 2010]

By ; January 15, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Once upon a time in San Diego, a little band called The Muslims was formed. They slotted fairly comfortably into whichever iteration of the garage rock revival we’re in now and released one particularly great 7″ in “Parasites / Walking With Jesus.” However, the buzzier the buzz got, the more attention was drawn to the band name. It’s hard to imagine this, sitting as we are in an enlightened new decade, but people actually made ignorant and racist comments about the band name – enough for the band to change their name to the fairly innocuous, if slightly dirty sounding, The Soft Pack.

But etymology and the vicissitudes of public favour aside, are they still any good? Well, yeah. Think A Garage Rock Album You Like nudged slightly in the direction of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. It’s still nestling happily in that post-post-post-Nuggets niche where the songs hurtle along and the chorus crashes over you like a wave, but it’s tidied and glossed up just a little to ensure the hooks stick out sharper and harder. And the sharper the hooks get, the more I like it. It’s hard to look past the opener (“C’Mon”) for sheer thrills, all breathless and invigorating, hurtling into the chorus like a swimmer leaping into the ocean. “Down On Loving” does that garage rock trick I love most, taking the ’60s sound and supercharging it without losing the melodic sense, this glorious call-and-response chorus belying the negativity in the lyrics. “Move Along” has this lovely little synth-y hook that tips its hat to their appearance on the Phoenix remix album, and “Pull Out” throws surf-y guitar over the top of this lovely, elongated chug.

However, it’s not all good news; the record feels front-loaded, with the first six tracks hitting in this intoxicating rush before the record seizes up a little. “Flammable” flails around a bit in search of a hook, even if it does muddy the groove up a little to compensate for it, and while “Mexico,” the album’s sole ballad, does pack a nice swirly guitar riff, the slower tempo makes it seem to drag a little in comparison to what’s preceded it. Good for fans of “changes of pace,” though. Album closer “Parasites” redeems the album’s closing stretch though, hitting on a hammering, dirty groove of a sort that the Stooges might take home and riding it out for five minutes without it getting old.

At the end of the day, it’s hard for a band like this to stick out in an increasingly crowded market (things I’ve only just gotten to from last year alone: the Jacuzzi Boys album, two (!) Fresh & Onlys albums, Dan Melchior). But at a time when everyone’s looking back and trying to calculate the greatest albums of a decade just gone, it’s easy to try and read the illusion of permanence into everything you listen to (will I still be listening to the Soft Pack in 2020?). The great thing about garage rock albums like this is that they’re easy to pick up and put down. Some albums you mate for life with, others are one-night stands, and some are so tragic you pull the plug before you’ve even really gotten to the foreplay. With all the charms it contains, The Soft Pack is a great album to have a fling with, and who knows where it might go from there?


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