THE SOFT PACK – The Soft Pack (Heavenly)

When The Soft Pack changed their name in 2008 from the slightly-too-controversial Muslims, you might have expected the band to capitalise on the free publicity which that generated and rush out their debut album while their name was still in the public consciousness. Having none of that, they have bided their time and now here it is – a year late but worth the wait. This San Diego foursome might not be the most innovative band around, but they do what they do with enthusiasm and panache, and the result is an extremely enjoyable album. ‘C’Mon’ is the perfect choice to start the album, being a furious, energetic rocker with a catchy chorus that would sound great on the radio. They should release it as their next single – oh, wait a minute, they have, and it really is good enough to crack the charts. ‘Down On Loving’ is more of the same, but with the added attraction of some gloriously ragged rhythms and a frenetic guitar solo. ‘Answer To Yourself’ is another of their offbeat but strangely commercial songs – it shouldn’t really work, and yet it is oddly appealing, while ‘Pull Out’ is blessed with a driving Krautrock beat and some great guitar and organ interplay, while the lyrics bear quoting in full – ‘Pull out, ship out’. This is actually my favourite track so far, as it shows that the band don’t just stick to the indie-garage rock that they do so well, but can experiment with other styles and pull them off as well. ‘More Or Less’ is a fine 60’s style up-beat ballad – keeping the breathless pace but with a more emotional lyric, but ‘Tides Of Time’ sounds a little bit ordinary compared to the cracking tracks that precede it. ‘Flammable’ gets them effortlessly back on track, though, with a racing, shambling gait that seems in danger of tripping itself up. ‘Mexico’ is the sole ballad on the record, and while it is laudable for the band to show that they can do moody and heartfelt, it is almost as if the album has screeched to a halt to let a little old lady cross the road, before it roars off again with a thundering version of the old Muslims single ‘Parasites’. And that’s it – just over half an hour of snotty garage rock (excluding Mexico, obviously) from this excellent new band. Some critics seem to think that they are a bit anonymous and unremarkable, but I found this album to be a refreshing change to the general darkness of modern guitar bands, and perhaps groups like The Soft Pack and The Drums are the way forward for indie guitar rock. Check them out now, and you can say that you were there when music got fun again.