The new name is in place, the world’s ears are open. Now it’s time to justify all that attention. Union Pool, New York (January 17)
Even with just a 12-inch EP to their (new) name, it’s unsurprising that The Soft Pack’s audience seem to know every word of this much-hyped band’s songs. By now you’ll have heard they changed their handle from the way-cooler The Muslims to The Soft Pack due to the “disgusting racist comments” their former name brought their way, a move that earned more column inches than the above EP.
A Soft Pack by any other name, though, would sound as sweet, and like many others before them the San Diego quartet have cherry-picked the best of their heroes and made the result their own. Tonight, sporting button-down shirts, crew neck sweaters and Argyle check without a hint of leather in sight, the band’s style contrasts drastically with their raw, stripped-back set. These aren’t skeletal hipsters who exist on heroin and whiskey: here are real music lovers who couldn’t give two figs about ‘appearance’ and/or being cool.
Exhibiting an unnerving tightness live, ‘On My Time’ pinches all the best aspects of The Modern Lovers, while ‘Extinction’’s jarring rhythms have more than of a hint of Strokes knee-deep in their ‘Is This It’ sessions, a comparison that lingers in the mind throughout the entire show. ‘Beside Myself’ sees bowl-cut singer Matt Lamkin morph into a slightly-more-upbeat Stephen Malkmus performing Wire at karaoke. In a good way, of course. A mid-tempo, mid-set mood lull is redeemed by ‘Parasites’, a bass-heavy, jangly affair that, in a younger audience, might fashion some sort of moshpit action.
Aside from a facetious “Who’s your favourite Beatle?” moment there’s little chat between songs, but you get the idea it’s not because these guys are too shy to speak. The Soft Pack are a band who are secure in their talent and prowess, are confident that their taste and influences are all-but flawless, and don’t need to babble nervously in case 200 people lose interest in what’s happening onstage.
As if any further proof of their no-bullshit attitude was needed, a visit to their MySpace pictures shows them frolicking in a Jacuzzi with, er, traffic cones and cuddling cute, fluffy white dogs. This band care little about a rock’n’roll image, and a lot about unspoiled rock music. Because really, that’s all you need.