First published on greenmanmusic.biz
In my humble opinion, one of the greatest attributes to “indie” music is its sheer variety and scope. Very much a term of convenience its original coining to describe music put out by small independent labels naturally encompassed a vast range of styles. It gradually came to refer to any alternative from the mainstream, acts that were on the underground scenes and were more outsiders. And it is a genre term that has continued to develop, now often being used as a catch all to cover music that is un-commercial and more “worthy”. In doing so it neatly sidesteps the limitations of being a genre with a specific sound and image, and becomes the opposite, with a broader appeal as a consequence, this certainly has given it the ability to be long lasting.
California’s The Soft Pack are a band that are firmly resident within the house called “indie”, themselves having a sound that has a variety to it that is to be admired. In this they very much have taken to heart fellow Californian David Lee Roth’s philosophical mantra that ”The First Rule of rock ‘n’ roll is if it sounds good, it is good”. Not known for his wisdom and sage thinking on the whole, Diamond Dave nevertheless has hit upon a winner with that one.
Strapped is the sophomore album from the four piece, and was written and recorded over a 2 year period. This has given them the time to invest in honing down these songs into little sub-three minute nuggets of pop-rock precision. And despite the long gestation period the band follow the “if it isn’t broken” ideology, there is a lot in common with their debut record, following on from it’s cynical point of view. There is a diversity of influences from traditional modern indie touchstones like late 80’s English and American indie (think bands like The Smiths, Jesus & Mary chain, Husker Du, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jnr), Shoegaze and Math rock to more unusual fare like the pomp-pop of Elton John and 80’s sax-drenched soul and RnB (just check out the influences-on-it’s-sleeve new-wave of the track Bobby Brown) but without ever forgetting the fuzz and slacker pacing.
This album has soulful horns all over it, giving it an unusual and unique feel, although a bit of a schizophrenic impression at times. Yes some of the time parts of this record sit uncomfortably with other parts, but that is also equally some of the charm of it, making it a real pick-n-mix of an album – sometimes a gnarly old toffee, sometimes a light fluffy marshmallow shape – and I like that about it. In a way it is a little like those pleasantly drunk nights out that take unusual and surreal twists and turns and don’t quite make sense the morning after, as you remember the happenings in slightly hazy, uncomfortable bite-size flashbacks. And as for that the band name? I’ll let you research that one yourself.
Strapped is out now on Mexican Summer Records.