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Live Review: Soft Pack

Flushed with hype, the San Diegans now land in a converted toilet, but come up smelling of roses. Ginglik, London. Thursday, July 2

Live Review: Soft Pack

A man stands outside an old public toilet in west London. Looking shifty, he paces the pavement with his hands clasped tight in his pockets, trying not to attract attention. It’s 35 minutes until The Soft Pack are due onstage and frontman Matt Lamkin appears to be nervous. This isn’t unexpected. Now that the hype about the San Diegan quartet has died down, the real pressure is on, with cynics eager to find out if they’re actually any cop, and Lamkin knows it.

The buzz of tonight’s secret gig has spread enough to ensure that Shepherd’s Bush venue Ginglik (aka the disused underground public bogs on the Green) is the most scrutinised convenience since George Michael went for a piss in Hampstead Heath – and an air of expectance abounds.

Onstage, the band look way more convincing than when we first saw them, supporting Black Lips back in February. Lamkin is the embodiment of this newfound bravado. He doesn’t stalk or swagger or jump around, he prowls. It works best when his guitar is in its rack and he’s free to hold the mic, weirdly recalling a more of-this-planet Shaun Ryder.

Of the tunes, ‘Extinction’ still greets you like a long-lost friend (it’s the lazier, better-looking cousin of ‘Last Nite’), while the final instrumental minute of ‘Rite And Wrong’ just is rock’n’roll – four men gleaning unadulterated aural brilliance from a few bits of stringed wood. Newie ‘More Or Less’ also stands out; its CBGB riff all spunked up and nostalgic enough to spike surely the lamest of Topshop knobbers into action.

But… as yet, the revolution holds no real revelations. The Soft Pack’s refusal to bend over and let uncle sell-out do his business has left them somewhat isolated, walking the tightrope between seeming impishly negligent and being plain old scenester wank material. They are undoubtedly on the right track though, so with a little luck the fruits of their gestation will benefit from their coyness. After all, too much hype early on only sends bands down the shitter.

Matt Wilkinson

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