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The Soft Pack - The Soft Pack

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Artist: The Soft Pack

Album: The Soft Pack

Label: Kemado

Review date: Feb. 1, 2010

Despite the end-of-the-decade love showered on the Strokes, Julian Casablancas’ new solo record more or less showed it was high time to pass the Is This It torch. Which shouldn’t be too hard, considering the amount of garage revivalists and four-on-the-floor rock ‘n rollers that seem to breed like bacteria. And while there’s been more than a few contenders over the years, I’d like to present the Soft Pack for your consideration.

Instead of going for the nearly-impossible-to-copy New York hipness of Casablancas, the Soft Pack approach things from the opposite tack. The foursome’s cool is pure SoCal, a cocky swagger completely self-confident and lacking any ennui. The songs on The Soft Pack are big and accessible with no bullshit song structures and some of the best bass lines going on right now. The emphasis on the low-end makes these songs stand out from the static-murked trebles of so many lesser bands dealing in the same laid back arrangements. It’s certainly what makes lead-off and soon-to-be hit single “C’Mon” really motor along, while also saving less monstrous fare like “Mexico” from being an also-ran Walkmen knockoff.

Which isn’t to say that the glossy California synth wall of sound doesn’t find its way in. “Move Along” strikes a balance between the bedroom weirdo pop of so many other San Diego one-man bands and the manic studio sessions of the newly electric at the time Bob Dylan. So does “Pull Out,” but at an even slower, more dirge-y tempo that’s sure to go over the heads of anyone who was dancing along to the catchier, lighter throwaways like “More Or Less.”

It’s nice to see that even though they’ve got the hit single party-pleaser down cold, the Soft Pack still has some of dissonant tendencies, especially as critical and popular attention have started to creep up on them. They even end the record with “Parasites,” one of their best songs from their pre-touring-with-Phoenix days as the Muslims. More challenging fare may empty the show floor of the purely good-time seekers, but it keeps them out of the safety zone. Regardless of reception, they can still stand behind the strength of the songwriting.

I’d say the jury’s still out on whether or not anyone will be able to make an impression the same way the Strokes did when they first rolled onto the scene. Lightning rarely strikes twice, especially for a music-consuming society eager to move on to the next one, and look their noses at the bandwagoneers that form the second, third and fourth waves. But at the end of the day, if you were to check back in with me at the beginning of the twenty-twenties, I have a feeling the Soft Pack will still be a band worth talking about. Maybe not with the near unanimous praise the followed Is This It, but certainly with some less-than-begrudging respect.

By Evan Hanlon

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