Top critical review
Decent, but doesn't warrant the hype
on December 22, 2015
**Review originally appeared at https://midnighttosix.wordpress.com
The Soft Pack have been hyped in the music press for some time now. The San Diego foursome have been the subject of NME articles dating back over a year prior to this debut release, when they were still known as The Muslims – a name that they were wise to drop. Over the past decade we’ve seen a lot bands live up to the pre-debut hype (The Strokes, Vampire Weekend, Franz Ferdinand), and others who couldn’t (is anyone still listening to The Vines?) and lost whatever forward momentum the press had given them. So, the obvious question is “where do the Soft Pack stand in all of this”? Do they deserve all this hype? The answer is a rather tricky one, I’m afraid. The album is an attack of taught rhythms, concise high-energy songs, and brash singing. Certainly they’ve written ten very good songs, and it’s hard to find anything to dislike in the half hour the albums plays for. I especially like the way singer Matt Lamkin works a few Ian MacKaye moves into his vocals and how the band goes for a Dischord-style sound on “Pull Out” (perhaps the work of producer, and DC-scene alumnus Eli Janney). The only problem is that, for the most part, they stick too closely to the Strokes template to make a big impact. I’d imagine that to the casual listener several of the songs (especially “Answer To Yourself”, “C’mon” and “More or Less”) could be passed off as holdovers from the sessions for Is This It, if slightly more punky and aggressive. If this was 2001-2003, when there was a ravenous demand for anything even remotely related to The Strokes, I’d say it would make the album a surefire success; but it seems a little out of step with where music is at in 2010. That may put the Soft Pack’s ability to catch on with the public at a bit of a disadvantage, but it shouldn’t take away from their music, which is fun, confident and probably better than anything the bands who influenced them are capable of putting out this year.