The Soft Pack

The Soft Pack

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.

Fiona Byrne