The Soft Pack - Strapped

An ambitious follow up that decisively moves the band’s sound forward.

Label: Mexican Summer

Rating: 8

The second album is usually a tipping point for a band; a key factor in deciding whether they will go on to flourish and develop or drift off in to obscurity. Fortunately, for Los Angeles quartet The Soft Pack their second full-length ‘Strapped’ is a significant step forward from their debut; far more expansive and ambitious. While their first LP was a punchy collection of straight-ahead garage rock, very much reverential in nature, this sees the band operating from a far broader sonic pallet. It makes for a far more satisfying listen.

Horns and copious keyboards now figure strongly in the band’s music along with fuzzed up rollicking guitar tunes. You can hear the influence of smooth 80s soul acts like Hall & Oates on the louche pop rock strut of ‘Tallboy’, and the saxophone solo on ‘Bobby Brown’ is a particularly glorious moment. This pop vibrancy add much needed colour to the band’s rock ‘n roll thrash. The typical guitar songs on the record sound fresh and energised in this setting: ‘Saratoga’ and ‘Second Look’ rattle along with carefree abandon. This sort of wonderful effervescence characterises the album.

As the record progresses the band get even more experimental as they push far beyond their previous sound. ‘Oxford Avenue’ is a jazz influenced skronk that has more in common with The Contortions that it does with The Strokes. Closing track ‘Captain Ace’ provides perhaps the best example of their new ambition. Clocking in at a hitherto unheard of seven minutes, it is a shape-shifting piece of pop rock brimming with energy spirit. Saxophones and horns are given free rein to let loose as the track spirals off into the ether.

Far too often, a band’s second album sees them retreading the well-worn ground of their debut. The Soft Pack have provided a welcome exception to that trend with an ambitious follow up that decisively moves their sound forward.