A telltale sign that a band has faith in itself is when that band exhibits the foresight to change its name because its old one caused too much controversy. THE SOFT PACK, formerly THE MUSLIMS, did just that. And good call fellas. Good call for a couple of reasons. One, the name THE MUSLIMS could have ostracized some and incited the ignorant. And two, they’re right: THE SOFT PACK is gonna become much more popular than THE MUSLIMS ever were. Their self-titled debut as THE SOFT PACK is 30 minutes of ultra-catchy, heavy, poppy, consistently good garage rock.
THE SOFT PACK is a West Coast, LA-via-San-Diego garage rock band that employs heavy on-repeat drums, heavy on-repeat basslines, killer semi lo-fi guitar riffs and twangy metallic solos in creating their infectious pop tracks. They also boast Matt Lamkin, a lead singer who is as cool as the ocean breeze, but cooler. And though this sound is total garage, that garage has gotta be close to a beach. At one point it even sounds like they pulled an electric guitar from the bottom of the sea, rusted and warped, slung it over a shoulder and went at it. This band is going somewhere, slimming the scope of their early lo-fi sound, taming the harder core that’s inside them (fossils of a harder past are clearly evident) and filling their record with sing-a-long hits.
On The Soft Pack, the self-titled first release under their new moniker, the guys show off how solid their formula is. Their sound is set in stone and they recycle it song after song after song for 30 minutes. Nearly every song is catchy, and some are really catchy. Every song is simple. On the opener, C’mon, THE SOFT PACK get out in the open at the outset that they are going to find a good thing and they’re gonna focus on that good thing all day. The hook in that song, Lamkin saying “ah c’mon” over and over again, is about as catchy as anything you’re gonna hear at this early stage of 2010. And the band knows it. They end the first track with 13 killer “ah c’mons” in a row during that final 27 seconds. And you wish it were 14 killer “ah c’mons.”
The first three tracks of the album are solid. Down on Loving, the second track, is gonna be an album favorite to some fans. It’s got a super-catchy guitar riff that goes non-stop from start to finish, and Lamkin laments that he’s “down on lovin’” and that he “sees that lovin’ all around.” Yeah, the instrumentation is simple and to the point, and so is the lyricism. Everybody can relate to those lyrics. By the record’s third track, Answer to Yourself, it is clear that the focus of this album is the catchiness of the guitar riff. First with C’mon and Down on Loving, and then here with the third track, the feel of the record is clear: THE SOFT PACK squeezes every last drop out of their guitar hooks and they leave nothing on the table.
The band does change course a bit, however, on Pull Out, fashioning a chorus out of what is essentially a vocal-free synth line. The track’s title creeps into the end of the verses, which in itself would be insufficient as a track’s backbone. But the chorus is bare-boned, showcasing only the drums, the trademark guitar riff and that infectious synth line. Mexico is the other point in the album where the band skirts its textbook pop form for a slower, bass-driven jaunt that is so reminiscent of THE DISMEMBERMENT PLAN even Travis Morrison would be confused. But the song is still incredibly poppy, just in a way different from the rest of the record. The best part about this song, besides that phenomenal bassline, is an even more phenomenal distorted, warped slide guitar interlude. It’s real badass. This track finds THE SOFT PACK at the top of their game.
More or Less offers the best lyrics on the album, finding Lamkin pointing out how some people just suck. He’s probably referring to one person. That person probably really sucks. But, as you can imagine, the song is a real poppy jam centered around, of all things, a super catchy guitar riff. I’m telling you, this album is a lesson in finding a sound and being true-to-form at all times. The best of the guitar riffs can be found in Tides of Time, which but-for a so-so chorus would be the record’s best song. It sounds like the band brought a thick biker bar guitar riff to a real good sock hop. I would love to see people dance to this. This album is at its heart a great garage rock dance party. That should be enough to get you to wrap your ears around it.