On David Letterman's show in early 2010 the southern California band The Soft Pack performed a song called "Answer to Yourself." Before launching the rock the lead singer dedicated it to the late Warren Zevon. What? As an admitted fan of Zevon's body of work I was shocked. I was also kinda grooving on the basic primitive garage-post-college-indie-rock of the band themselves were thrashing. What does a band that sounds like the Modern Lovers have to do with Zevon? I never have figured that out, but The Soft Pack are back with a new album titled Strapped (Mexican Summer).
The lineup of two guitars, bass, drums, and (occasional) keyboard is a tried and true sound. It's a template that's been through the wringer. We've all heard it before. There's nothing new under the sun, but for some reason the sound endures. The racket a group of people can make with those instruments and vocals gets the core of a man better than any other art form (assuming the songs are decent that is).
The group's new album is meant to be jammed loud and often. Singer/guitarist Matt Lamkin's tunes are mush-mouthed, but melodic enough to emote even from the echo chamber he sings in. The guitars range from new wave to surf to straight ahead rock. On "Second Look" the band is polished with studio perfection and for that the song is the weak link for a band better suited for guitar skankin'. For me the down and dirty rock of "Saratoga" and "Ray's Mistake" are where the band is at its best here.
Towards the end of the album, "Captain Ace" (a six plus minute horn jam) for example, I'm a little worn down by some of the sheen that covers the band's scuzzy booming attack. This is a band that might want to be playing Funhouse (what with all that bleating sax!), but end up sounding a little too much like a band produced by someone schooled in the 80s. This is a fairly small complaint as ultimately The Soft Pack are a good rock band who delivered a good (not great) rock album. Who knows, it might be a grower?