Jon Garrett

Defying both the myth of club life and New York City's grueling scene, these Madchester revivalists are setting their sights on the stars, one methodical, careful step at a time.

Next Stop, Wembley Stadium

There's the notion, or perhaps perpetuated myth, that the heart of rock 'n' roll beats strongest in darkened, dingy venues across America -- in clubs that hold a capacity of a couple hundred and where the patrons drink Pabst Blue Ribbon out of the can. For the artists that hold this belief, stadium concerts are grudgingly accepted as a means to placate a massive fan base and viewed as a necessary evil to keep ticket costs down -- hence the many bands that play secretive shows or embark on a club tour in the interest of recapturing the simple magic of the early days.

It's curious, then, that John Reineck, in an affront to rock 'n' roll's tacitly accepted truth, can't leave the club gigs behind fast enough -- even though his band, the New York City-based Soft, has only completed a handful of such shows to date. As someone who readily admits his lifelong obsession with pop radio, Reineck instead sees the present not as something to savor, but rather as merely paving the way to Soft's ultimate destiny. "These songs [that we're writing], I envision them being played in a soccer stadium filled with 80,000 fans," he says without a trace of irony. "Our goal for the record is for it to be like INXS's Kick. We'd like every song to be a huge Top 10 single."

Lacking in ambition, Soft is not.

On paper, Reineck's goals may seem a tad lofty, if not downright unreasonable, but one listen to Soft's songs suggests that the front man's confidence is not misplaced. Taking the psychedelic pop of Manchester's finest, the Stone Roses, as a starting point, and incorporating the lush atmospherics favored by the shoegazers who supplanted them in the early '90s, Soft has condensed a five-year era of British music into one seamless, signature sound -- most evocatively captured on their shimmering debut single "Droppin'."

Soft's dreamy aesthetic has been attempted by many in the intervening years, but Reineck and rest of Soft, which includes guitarists Vincent Perini and Sam Wheeler, bassist Dino Siampos, and drummer Chris Colley, are arguably the first group to credibly revive the Brit indie golden era -- and build on it. "We all had a common thing with the Stone Roses," explains Reineck. "Here was a band from this time period that did an amazing thing and then disappeared. And we also had other similar influences: My Bloody Valentine, Spiritualized, and things like that. But that's not to say we discussed it so much first. The sound came very, very organically." However, what separates Soft from the many similarly-minded-yet-inferior bands that came before them is the group's attention to detail. Unlike the many predecessors who looked to Ride and MBV for inspiration, the members of Soft intuitively understand that the era was characterized as much by an obsession with production technique and treatment as it was by a certain approach to songwriting. "Droppin'" perhaps best underscores the band's commitment to their craft -- all heavily delayed guitar lines and John's shallowly buried, lilting vocals.

Soft's elegantly-rendered update is even more remarkable when one realizes "Droppin'" is not the product of an untold fortune spent on studio effects and equipment. "We spent more money on the plane tickets down to Austin to work with [producer] Rory [Phillips] than anything else," says Reineck, who still very much considers the song a demo despite the full-bodied sound. "We recorded the drums in this old ranch in upstate New York, but we did everything else in our practice space. If you isolate the tracks, you can actually hear the band next door practicing." But however much the band may have saved in hard cash, it easily lost in labor hours. Reineck confesses that the band drastically reworked "Droppin'" countless times over a period of months.

Soft's careful attention to their recorded output perhaps explains why the band has remained relatively unknown in New York City, which has a habit of seizing on promising local bands in their infancy. Soft only started playing live dates approximately six months ago, over a year after they cemented their line-up. Reineck claims the long hours logged in their practice space and writing was time well-spent. "In New York, you're kind of under the microscope, and [your band is] finished if you have a bad show. I wanted to make sure when we came out of the gate that we were amazing. It felt like forever [before we played our first show]. We wrote tons and tons of songs." Yet even now that the band has begun to get a few high-profile slots -- opening for Ride's Mark Gardener in New York and scoring a couple of headlining, one-off dates in London -- Soft has stuck to a grueling practice schedule of six days per week.

No doubt Reineck hopes the band's work ethic, combined with its ambition, will propel Soft rapidly toward the cast of thousands he imagines await them. His is a dream that won't easily burn down.

[band website]

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.