Gone Faded
Academy Fight Song/Silver Sleeve Records

What do ska and Brit rock have in common? Apparently, a lot more than one might suspect. First, Sam Endicott traded his Rasta gear and dreads for a leather jacket and a vat of pomade to front the Bravery. And now John Reineck, U of M grad and onetime frontman of Minneapolis ska band the Siren Six, leads the NYC-based nu-gazers Soft. Fortunately, Reineck has done his homework—his band's debut, Gone Faded, far outclasses the Bravery's facile New Order knockoff.

Like their heroes, Soft construct songs from somnolent vocals and molten feedback, producing a sound that one might characterize as serene if it wasn't so damn loud. But unlike the progenitors of the form, Soft never let the melodies disintegrate. Where My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive had a tendency to let their effects pedals reduce their choruses to a dull throb, Soft prefer to make their songs' pop origins explicit, befitting a band that holds INXS's Kick in such high regard. "Higher" and "Droppin'," the album's two most accomplished tracks, prove stellar exemplars, with Reineck's dulcet voice peeking out above the trebly waves.

Gone Faded does drag a bit toward the end—with Reineck's vague philosophical musings ("It's universal, isn't it?/Magnetic minds unite") partially to blame. Still, it's hard to fault a band that overlooks a few details in their quest to get the feeling right. No Reel Big Fish, then—but a real catch nonetheless.

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