The Soft Pack Isn’t Holding Anything Back

April 5th, 2010

The Soft Pack – Music Hall of Williamsburg – April 3, 2010

It’s somewhat of a curse that the more successful a first album is, the worse the second one will be received. Conventional wisdom suggests that the debut record is so great because a band has had years to work through ripping off heroes, refining their voice and experimenting in every style to finally come out on the other side with something groundbreaking. So it’s in that second album that what a band is really made of once all eyes are on them becomes clear. The Soft Pack emerged from a band-name change and pitch-perfect assertive debut EP to deliver an impressive follow-up album, which also happens to be self-titled.

That full-length disc is filled with that familiar stripped-down rock and roll, signature basslines and sing-along choruses. And the Soft Pack played almost everything from it on Saturday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg. They innovate in a crowded field of drums, guitar and bass and turn out an energetically consistent live show. It’s hard to pick a favorite because they don’t have the one obvious hit—they’re all A-sides. But something that has changed is that the group is now obviously at home onstage, messing with the audience and one another, like when guitarist Matty McLoughlin made fun of singer-guitarist Matt Lamkin’s new gold Fender Squier guitar: “Yeah, that’s got a classic vibe…a nerdy vibe.”

The Soft Pack is definitely an L.A. band. Its members, dressed in similar plaid button-down shirts, are comfortable enough to inspire a moshing audience and still have the nerve to call themselves squares. This self-deprecating attitude is converting new fans at every show, because they don’t have the same kind of ego as bands like the Strokes do. Maybe they’ve been sabotaging themselves just enough to keep it interesting, forced to reinvent the band every year, never resting on that last performance. Whatever it is, don’t take it for indifference, because the Soft Pack isn’t holding anything back. —Jason Dean