Review Summary: The Soft Pack make a soft album.
The Soft Pack, who changed their name from the offensive “The Muslims” after starting out, are the next band to join the retrospect train that’s set out to play to such greats as Ramones, The Clash, and all the 60s' and 70s' garage-rock goodness that went on in that era. Heck, the Los Angeles quartet even have everything to fit the perfect picture: relatively low production values, mumbling guitars in the background, melody-tinged vocals that center around a single hooky substance for each song, and the customarily-short track times that make up their customarily-short album. Are these guys out to start a revolution that will bring us back to the “great” period of distortion, youth bravado? No, at least, I hope they’re not. The Soft Pack probably won’t be going that far, folks.
Maybe it’s the influences they have chosen for their foundation that’s doomed them to the realm of the “familiar at a glance but will be passed by in the future”--or maybe, more honestly that is, they just fail in creating a compelling set of songs to give the greats a proper toast. For starters, vocalist Matt Lamkin has that youthful, “matter-of-fact” arrogance about him that’s just familiar enough to lure listeners in but forgettable enough to be forgotten once the music stops. Tracks like the bass-driven single “Answer To Yourself” plays like a jukebox hit might have sounded inside an ice-cream parlor on the corner of 7th and 12th Street
when your parents were young and busting through high school. Is it catchy? Sure; is it outdated and irrelevant to the times? Yes, it is that as well.
Two and a half-minute cuts comprise the foundation of The Soft Pack’s self-titled. Given the short running time, I can understand why the Californians might focus on one melody for a song, but when lines like, ’Move along, move along / move along, move’
, make up four-fifths of that short run time, we have a problem. What’s meant to be retro-esque and fun turns out to be repetitive, and despite the circular, repeating patterns of the tracks, forgettable. Granted, the band should be applauded for switching it up a bit on ninth cut “Mexico”. The bass-led track balances a surf-like, summer feel with a call back to the more lovely moments of your parents' prom back in 67’. You know, the kind of track that would play during the slow dances when all of the punch was gone, and all of the bikers had already rode off on their Harleys to go to Pop’s for ice-cream and rootbear.
The end of the day brings The Small Pack
to its dreary end. In attempts to follow the greats of 40 years ago, the Los Angeles quartet have come up a bit too short with their self-titled by being too common and too harmless. Matt Lamkin’s vocals will fade from memory; the singer and Mattie McLoughlin’s guitar riffs will buzz in memory until someone decides to turn the album off; and the bass lines--oh yes, the bass lines!--will be the only thing you will take from these guys. The problem with bands like The Soft Pack is that they're really only segue fodder for greater things. People will start up the album, and once they hear Matt exclaim, ’Ah c’mon / ah c’mon’
, they will remember just how great their Ramones self-titled and London Calling albums were. Turning off The Small Pack’s self-titled, they will head off to bigger, better, and more memorable music.