[sic] Magazine

The Soft Pack – The Soft Pack

Hype is a strange beast. No doubt it raises the profile, and in turn it piques interest in the music-appreciating community. Myspace hits rise, early singles receive play and small corners of the Internet duly coo. However, as the profile rises so does expectation. Such is the nature of hype.

At this critical juncture, it pays to have more than the one or two tracks that brought the hype beast sniffing. Without them, or a sufficiently interesting story to buy time, a band can start to flounder even before an album release is made. The Soft Pack initially plumped for the latter.

As it is near inescapable to discover, they used to be called The Muslims. Due to “ignorant and racist” comments a name change was made. As it turns out, as a name The Muslims, a much ballsier name let’s face it, might have brought more hype through obvious controversiality. Either way, The Soft Pack, perhaps recognising their potential undoing by the machine, chose a different path.

Their college-cum-garage-rock is remarkably smooth when their contemporaries, particularly those from their native San Diego (see Christmas Island) and neighbouring cities, are all bathed in a sea of lo-fi production methods. Although Matt Lamkin’s vocal in truth lacks punch or sufficient drawl, it bobs along happily in identifiable Jonathan Richman-country nevertheless.

The Soft Pack appear a balancing act, better than the never-rans (The Virgins), but not as good as Pavement and The Strokes whose middle ground they seem to frequently covet. This said, it’s quite refreshing to also have REM’s early college-rock unearthed afresh on the machine-gun delivery of “Down On Loving”. The manic organ of the breathless “Move Along” further adds welcome kudos. The songcraft on offer is warmly familiar throughout. There’s no genre bending here, but what is present is almost flawless.

The third track on this self-titled offering, “Answer To Yourself”, states that “ … you’re more talented that you know”. When this brutally honest mirror is held up to unoriginal ethos of The Soft Pack, their edifying mantra starts to look untrue. However, by the same extension, The Soft Pack deserve credit. Landing this largely credible release amid the damaging maelstrom of a tidal wave of hype must have taken talent, and in parts it more than shines through.