Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The greatest legacy of The Ramones can be summed up in anthology form, dozens and dozens of smart, pissy little, 1-2-3-4 punk rock snarls and put-ons. A close second greatest legacy, they say and it can be believed, is that those dirty guys from New York City made it look and sound so fucking easy. Three chords and some bravado, a bunch of songs about and revolving around angst of all kinds, was all that it took to be successful rock stars, beloved the world over. Of course, nothing's all that easy to enact. Los Angeles-via-San Diego band The Soft Pack, formerly The Muslims, has angst - so much angst - and it has this second nature ability to make its songs sound as if these were some of the first things that had just so instantly appeared out of thin air to them, coming out of their mouths and being brought to life by their hands. They're almost the subconscious grumbles of a sleeptalker who went to bed with a chip or two on their shoulder, mumbling about the slights and the people they'd rather not have to deal with when the morning comes back round. The songs that make up their debut full-length, wisely entitled "The Muslims," are short and sweet pieces of bitter fumes. They bark and they splash and they flail and don't go short on what they really feel, which is mostly exactly what a black eye feels like to the eye and the skin and tissue surrounding it. It's not the actual impact of the fist to the eye or the elbow to the eye, but the way the eye actually feels when it's puffed out and dark purple, front and center obvious that there's been a bit of work done on it and the circumstances couldn't have been mutually accepted. The words that singer Matt Lamkin writes seem as if they never needed to be scribbled out onto paper. They feel of the precise moment that they're being dropped, urgent and full of that original passion that would have brought them out of the mouth for the first time anyway. Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend tweeted the other day that writing lyrics was hard and he wished that he could just spit good ones out, or something to that effect, and there's nothing new in that thought, but when hearing the words that Lamkin brings to the music, they seem to be ones that could just be spit out without much if any real contemplation or agonized process. These are words about hangers-on, about poseurs and assholes who can't seem to fit nicely into their rightful place in life - far from those who deserve to not have to deal with them. They are words that just go off and call out the liars and shitheads that nobody wants messing with their general enjoyment. The music is ragged and young and the perfect combination of embittered and bratty, drunk and intelligently disorderly. Lamkin calls out the killers and the muses to call it a day with a wiped out, dragging bit of insouciance that still smacks of conviction and rage. The delivery is akin to the one that Craig Nicholls of The Vines gave on the band's debut before they got boring and irrelevant, just quivering and conceived of in the rawest sense of distraction and focus, or what comes between them. At one point, he openly wonders what good tradition does anyone and at that point - when the nightlife is kicking, the young folks are throwing back drinks looking for romance and trouble as if there's no other option - nothing else does matter, tradition or substance and it's there that we seem to always meet up with The Soft Pack - when it's your fussy word and stance against their nonchalant ones.
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