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Pinching 1980s pop-rock is an obvious move these days, so it’s easy to wonder what The Soft Pack was thinking when it recorded Strapped, the followup to its self-titled 2010 debut. The band’s first album—produced by Brooklyn’s Eli Janney, a D.C. expat—had no-frills immediacy and at least four casually excellent hooks; Strapped is a consciously pro effort and has significant quantities of saxophone. The clearest window into the band’s new style comes from the midtempo, downtown-funk single, “Bobby Brown,” which sounds like not only a kiss-off to garage-rock purists, but also a challenge to all those other kids who are messing around with Naked Eyes and The Fixx. It’s also the biggest left-turn on Strapped—which means the Los Angeles-via-San Diego band can play most of these new songs alongside its old ones without generating too much cognitive dissonance. If that sounds like careerism, so be it.
The Soft Pack plays with Heavy Hawaii and Browns at 8 p.m. at Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. $15. blackcatdc.com. (202) 667-4490.