Soft Targets was a Chicago band active from 2004 to 2012 although several posthumous releases followed their breakup. The band was formed by Chris Auman after the implosion of Reagan National Crash Diet and the first incarnation included RNCD bassist Carol Bales. Other members include Perry and Tina Finch, Reg Shrader, Dave Potter, Dan Kiss, and Tim Davison.
RoosterCow Records released 10 Soft Targets recordings including two 7-inch records, 1 EP CD, 2 digital EPs and 4 full-length CD LPs. After moving to Madison, Wisconsin in 2012, Auman started Empire Smalls as a solo recording project before returning to Chicago where Tim Davison and Mike Dixon signed on.
Soft Targets Discography
"(Let it) Ricochet" b/w "Straight Line"
Recorded by Eric Block at Semaphore Recording, this 7-inch vinyl record is the only recording to feature the original four-piece line-up of the band (Auman, Reg Shrader, Tim Davison & Perry Finch). Cover art by Chris Auman.
EPs & Mini LPs
Whatever Happened To Soft Targets? CD EP
After the first Soft Targets 7" came this five-song CD EP recorded by Kris Poulin at Electrical Audio in Chicago featuring new drummer Dave Potter. Cover art by Chris Auman.
Night After Day After Day Digital mini LP
Released eight years after Soft Targets dissolved this 6-song mini-LP features songs that were salvaged from a recording session with Kris Poulin in 2011. Raw, unadorned, and free from overdubs.
The last word on the Soft Targets is this digital EP featuring the last three unreleased songs the Softies recorded with Kris Poulin in 2011. It's dark, it's unpolished, and it's definitely about the end of something.
We Hate You Soft Targets? CD LP
Recorded with Kris Poulin in Logan Square, Chicago, the first full-length Softies LP features new bass player Dan Kiss in what would bass be the longest-lasting line-up of Soft Targets in three years. Cover art by Chris Auman.
Soft Targets Must Be Destroyed CD LP
The Softies recorded their sophomore full-length album again with Kris Poulin in Logan Square. Shortly after its recording, drummer Dave Potter left the band for undisclosed reasons. Cover art by Chris Auman.
Don't Put Out
After jumping the sophomore slump, Soft Targets returned with their third full-length. Short punk rock blasts co-exist with stretched-out grooves in typical Softie fashion. Recorded by Poulin @ Armitage Shanks in Chicago.
Above the Arctic Circle CD LP
The Rise and Fall of Soft Target Comp. Cassette
The last Soft Targets record to be released while the band was still together, Arctic Circle is a ten-song blast of pop, rock, punk, and indie rock.
This cassette-only release consists of outtakes, b-sides, alternate versions, and general studio tomfoolery. Limited edition of 100 copies released on the cassette label Cassette Pet
Soft Target Shows
01/14 PANCHO'S Softie's Last Stand! Final Soft Targets show w/Party Downers and Arsenal Road
09/29 BEAT KITCHEN w/ Sentinels, Board of Governors & Warhellride. Blackout at the BK, no band got to play
08/12 MEMORIES w/ Release show for split 7"! Uma Thurmans, Bill Ura Dik & The Life Champions
05/21 MEMORIES w/ Phantom Works, The Cell Phones & Days Off
04/29 88.7 WLUW "Razor & Die Show", live in-studio performance
04/09 CAL'S LIQUORS w/ The City Streets (from Montreal), Lake Street Dive (from Brooklyn), Somersault Factory
02/26 QUENCHERS w/ Eric Howell's Greatest Hitch and the Kevin Lee Band
01/08 PANCHO'S w/ Heavy Bombers, Victory Auto Rockers, and Via Verso
11/11 THE MUTINY CD Release show for Above the Arctic Circle w/ The Sentinels and Phantom Works
10/30 KNOX AVENUE HOEDOWN w/ Booker Noe and Team Satan
04/23 THE MUTINY w/ Mean Ohio and TBA & the TBDs. Wiglar's B-Day Bash
10/09 WHPK 88.5 FM "Pure Hype" radio show, University of Chicago
09/19 BOTTOM LOUNGE w/ Hey Zeus, Last Fast Action, The Gnomes
09/03 WLUW 88.7 "Radio One" radio show. Live to tape performance and interview
08/06 QUENCHERS w/ Slick Conditions and Dos Boton
07/30 THE MUTINY w/ TBA & the TBDs
05/20 BEAT KITCHEN w/ Moshi Moshi Kaiju and Lemmy Caution
04/19 REGGIE'S "7th Annual CHIRP Record Fair" w/ Baby Teeth, Pet Lions, Ultramark, The Valley Of the Ghosts
03/24 CHIC-A-GO-GO, Ch 19, Episode #608
03/18 CHIC-A-GO-GO, Ch 19, Episode #608
03/01 THE EMPTY BOTTLE w/ Mean Ohio & Beautiful Lepers
12/13 THE BOTTOM LOUNGE "Rory Lake's Battle of the Bands 5" w/ Veterans, Jumpsuit & Cougars
10/25 RONNY'S w/ The Mediums, Shotgun for Royalty & Animal City
09/12 THE MUTINY w/ Titmice & The Party Downers
08/30 THE BOTTOM LOUNGE w/ Mr. Russia, Titmice and Papillion
08/29 PHYLLIS' MUSICAL INN w/ Vamplifier
08/08 CARY'S LOUNGE Chris Auman solo acoustic w/ Tom Comerford, Matt Seifert & Stanley Ross
07/25 CAL'S LIQUORS w/ The Aliens, 20th Century Rocket Bldg. & Black Actress
06/19 REGGIE'S w/ Mean Ohio, Papillion & Bone Tosser
05/22 DARKROOM w/Farewell Captain & Ellie Maybe Experience
11/17 PERMANENT RECORDS, in-store performance
11/17 THE NOTE w/ ClockCleaner, Why Intercept? & Anon, Good Nurse
10/13 THE MUTINY w/ The Steve Gattermeyer Band, Sleepy Kissers, The Box Bruisers & Tastes Like Dirt
09/17 BETTY'S BLUE STAR LOUNGE w/ Sisero
09/14 WHPK 88.5 FM "Pure Hype" radio show, University of Chicago
08/25 THE NOTE w/ Joesepi, Quatre Tet, & The Life & Times
06/21 QUENCHERS w/ Vamplifier
06/01 OTTO'S w/ The Singles, The Braves & Will Phalen and the Stereo Addicts
04/12 THE NOTE w/ The Grackles, Grinner, and The Moaners
02/10 RONNY'S BAR Release show for Whatever Happened to Soft Targets w/ Vamplifier and Three Blue Teardrops.
02/10 PERMANENT RECORDS in-store performance
12/31 THE MUTINY w/ Vamplifier and Unconcious Pilot
12/08 THE NOTE w/ Cola Wars and The Clerics
07/20 THE NOTE w/ In Praise of Folly, The Skies We Built and Charles DeGaulle
05/20 GUNTHER MURPHY'S w/ Release show for "(Let it) Ricochet" b/w "Straight Line" The Clerics & Kasper Hauser
04/21 CAL'S LIQUORS w/ Plasma Drive & Functional Blackouts
04/14 WHPK 88.5 FM Pure Hype radio show, University of Chicago
03/10 NITE CAP LOUNGE w/ The Slats, Waste & The Grackles
01/21 BEAT KITCHEN w/ The Braves & Coupleskate
08/19 SILVIE'S LOUNGE w/ Mt. Calm & Roebuck
07/30 FLETCHER STREET BLOCK PARTY w/ Coupleskate, Snack Time & The Finches
PRACTICE, practice, practice
Soft Target Press
DON'T PUT OUT
Soft Targets lay out their stall with the first blast of a track: "Figure It Out"; as juicy a slice of garage punk as you could ask for, heavy opening riffs, drum bashing and a I-don't-care-what-you're-saying-but-I'm-confident-you'll-get-the-point-in-the-end vocal. Come, on, I'm listening. We all know what's going on, how about you? Capped with a kiss-off that smacks so much of early Roxy Music that you can almost hear Brian Ferry warbling something perverse and impenetrable over the top of it.
To follow this with "When the Apocalypse Comes" is a tragedy. It's like a poor TV parody of a punk band with nuthin' to say and nihilism on their mind. Using the title phrase as the chorus makes this just unbearable. Fortunately the third cut, "I Don't Act Right", comes along strutting in Lou Reed's leathers, a seedy bass-heavy attempt at self-justification - sleazes Chris Auman : "I know I ain't perfect and I'm not real fine (is it a crime ?) No".
"Some Days" is garage again, a drone-heavy melodic garage, and is catchy, catchy, catchy, with an extended heavy guitar solo at the end which distances the song from any punk pretensions. And "Public World" keeps the Soft Targets mining the same seam, with, get this, gentle guitar work over pounding drums, conjuring up a confused hazy state over which Auman can croon "I want something to do, I want something to do" - ennui seasoned with detachment.
"Runaround" and "Idiot Clause" are all new wavy punk, the first stealing a basic rock 'n' roll riff and attitude, the second wanders around the same ground, and if it weren't for the drum patterns halfway through would be forgettable. I get the feeling that the Soft Targets have a great affection for late '70s punk, but their attempts at it are their weakest moments. "Frustration" (originally by The Mystic Tide) shows them playing to their strengths again, a proto-punk song wrapped up in a '60s garage band mentality, it's all there, down to the chanted backing vocals.
Soft Targets stray into the political realm to an apocalyptic fuzz drone - the decline, "Western Civ" claims, of the west is not the fault of hipster nations, and it's not worth trading for all the snow in Scandinavia. The oil in Arabia ? Well, that's a different matter.
The album closer - and presumably the final encore of their live performances - is "Big Cats" a perfect danceable blend of the B52's and Blondie, art school punk with Auman dueting with Tina Finch whose shiny happy vocal bounces around like a perky Claire Grogan.
Good trick, open and close with the two best songs on the album.
To start things off, I could personally write volumes about how good this CD is, but I have to fit this into a tiny blog post so let's get going. Soft Targets are signed to Roostercow Records and Don't Put Out is their third album. It starts with the ragingly good "Figure It Out" sure to be a crowd-pleaser at up coming shows. It sets the stage perfectly for the rest of the record. With upbeat rhythms and long jam sections, it perfectly portrays both kinds of songs you will hear on the rest of the album.
Things move on with "Some Days" and "Public World", two songs that show roots in old-school hardcore circa '85 DC. Bands like Fugazi and Rites Of Spring, even a little Moss Icon (minus the screaming) show through. This band has definitely done their homework. And the inspiration doesn't stop there "When The Apocalypse Comes" is blatant in it's Misfits inspiration, the Danzig vocals are ever present along with the this-is-the-end-of-the- world mentality to the lyrics. The punk rock grooves embellish it nicely.
The second half of the album continues the feel while taking it to more jamming and garage rock revival directions ala Cage the Elephant and Manchester Orchestra. They take it to new places however with there biting cover of "Frustration" which has an almost trance/sitar style of guitar work in the bridge.
Overall this album is an amazing release. Give it time and dare I say it, "Soft Targets" might be one of the most influential bands in the up coming garage rock revival movement. Keep your eye on this band. You just might be witnessing history in the making.
Responsible for artists as diverse and seismic as Wilco, Tortoise, Smog and The Handsome Family, Chicago holds an esteemed place in this writer's heart. The fact that Soft Targts also hail from the magnificent Windy City is a good start in itself, but it also means they're up against some inspirational competition.
And, in truth, Don't Put Out (the band's third album after 2007's debut We Hate You Soft Targets and last year's sophomore release Soft Targets Must Be Destroyed!) isn't quite enough to see them elevated to the heights we've come to expect from the cream of Chicago's population. It's not bad at all and it certainly has its' moments, but ultimately it's a decent enough garage-flavoured indie album and little more.
You can at this stage say “ok fine” and walk away, because you've heard all this before. And in places you have. Certainly, the album has a bit of a slump mid-way (around the time of the solid, but unexciting "Public World") and a disappointing conclusion courtesy of the lippy, but disposable "Western Civilisation" and interchangeable garage action of "Big Cats". Yet despite these blemishes, you should still stick around because there's some half-decent gear to be savoured here too.
For starters, Soft Targets are clearly in love with the best pop-punk out there. Short, sharp songs like "When The Apocalypse Comes", "Idiot Clause" and "Runaround" (which comes complete with a gloriously untutored bass solo of all things) are full of nervy riffs and punky aggression a la Buzzcocks or Ash, while the slightly more experimental likes of "Figure It Out" and the spirited "I Don't Act Right" have a seat-of-the-pants DIY charm that's truly seductive in selected doses.
The eerie edge of "Some Days" is another memorable contender, though ironically the album's stand out track is its' cover version (admittedly a relatively obscure one) in the shape of The Mystic Tide's "Frustration". I know sod all about The Mystic Tide, save they were a psychedelic-influenced garage-rock outfit, but if their back catalogue harbours more in the tuff, Chocolate- Watch-Band-with-sitars vein of this song, then I'd like to hear it. Very much, actually.
All of which sounds like I'm damning Don't Put Out with faint praise. Possibly I am, because as yet Soft Targets haven't quite sussed out the special formula that will put them ahead of the pack. For all that, there's something at work here that suggests writing Soft Targets just yet could well be a mistake. So let's cut them some slack. They are from Chicago, after all.
—WHISPERIN' HOLLERIN' (UK)
SOFT TARGETS MUST BE DESTROYED
When we reviewed Soft Targets’ 2007 release, We Hate You Soft Targets, we wrote the band was “simple, straightforward pop rock.” Soft Targets Must Be Destroyed! is similarly rife with dynamic chord progressions, syncopation, and, in some songs, a wall of sound. One major difference from the band’s last record is the production of the recording—Destroyed sounds fuller and more professional. The album’s best song is “Gotta Let You Go,” a sentimental piece whose universal subject matter should strike a chord with anyone who’s ever really cared about somebody else.
Unless I am remembering incorrectly, there was a time ('78 or '79 maybe?) when major labels started placing full-page ads in music magazines that featured both their mainstream acts (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, perhaps) and newer punk or new wave bands (like the Clash, and, yes I know they weren't on the same label) Listening to this Soft Targets CD reminded me of these ads and that era in music. Punk and Classic rock existed as separate entities, but there was an overriding feeling that was created by the mixture of genres. There are some sonic traces of both cited bands on Soft Targets Must Be Destroyed, but it is the manifestation of the spirit of the late 70s/early 80s that makes this record an exciting modern document.
Soft Targets is a rock n roll band from Chicago. Note that I'm specifically using the term 'rock n roll and not "indie rock." These guys are certainly independent, but their songs are full of big guitars, big pop hooks and, best of all, big endings (big endings are totally rad! -ed). Their sound is more similar to The Smithereens or Urge Overkill than to any of the shaggy blog rock bands pouring out of Brooklyn. And like any good rock band, they've been through about a thousand line-up changes since they formed in 2005, which makes their solid, cohesive sound even more impressive.
SOFT TARGETS MUST BE DESTROYED!
The members of Soft Targets aren't kids, and as a result the dozen songs on We Hate You Soft Targets reveal a maturity and gravity often missing from the repertoire of younger acts. Their post-punk sound is wholly appealing, and tunes like 'Walk Away' and 'See You On The Way Back Down' exhibit a singular blend of energy and ennui. It's grown-up music that happily retains a youthful oomph.
Chicago's Soft Targets have always been known as a supergroup—although the lineup has rotated so much that which groups make it "super" are constantly changing. Suffice to say, you've got alums from Seam, Lustre King and Reagan National Crash Diet here, and a sound that veers from punky pop to the more dramatic, minimalist leanings of early Raygun/Pegboy. Tonight the band celebrates the release of its latest full-length, We Hate You Soft Targets! (the band also plays a free show at Permanent Records at 2:30pm today). Philly's Clockcleaner (on Baltimore's Reptilian Records) plays music you could clean your clock to—if you wanted to bust it into little pieces, rhythmically stomp on it and then kick it to all corners of the room.
Despite numerous line-ups since the band's inception in the summer of 2004, Soft Targets released this cohesive album this fall. The sound is simple, straightforward pop-rock (think the Toadies meet the Pixies). The band's previous release, Whatever Happened to Soft Targets?, an EP, received positive reviews from the local press. "This four-piece just about nails an icy-cool, post-punk sound halfway through the Only Ones and Joy Division," wrote Miles Raymer in the Chicago Reader. And bassist Dan Kiss, whose chugging baselines sound dirtier than the dirtiest White Stripes song, works a day job that seems unlikely for an older indie rocker: he's a Cook County assistant public defender.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO SOFT TARGETS?
The post-punk Chicago unit—which borrows gracefully from indie-rock royalty like Dinosaur Jr. and Built to Spill—aim high with Whatever Happened to Soft Targets? the group's new EP. Opener "Returning" shoegazes its way through under-mixed vocals and a nice delayed guitar lead, all backed by a fuzzy, distorted guitar progression. "Clearing the Brush (on Brokeback Mountain)"—if you can get past the title—works as a countrified instrumental, jangly and moving-down-the-trail in an assured way. "Crushed" is pure pop, reggae-ish in its guitar parts, and a rock song that could actually benefit from a horn section, if the band had the resources. The next track, "Black Radiance," is bona fide early nineties rock, minor chords and distortion, world-crushing depression and angst. While the band mixes genres a bit and could probably use a different distortion pedal, there's something very endearing about the closer "I'm Sold," my favorite of the group, should be able to sell you with the lyric "Same shit, different day."
On the new EP Whatever Happened to Soft Targets?, this four-piece just about nails an icy-cool postpunk sound halfway between the Only Ones and Joy Division. The guitars jump from overdriven chugging to expansive, echoing chords, the drums are trebly and brittle with slapback reverb, and vocalist Chris Auman sings with world-weary aloofness—when he hits the occasional wrong note, it just sounds like he can't see the point of trying any harder. But while icy-cool postpunk leans pretty hard on a specific production style, it also needs songs, and these guys don't have them. Whatever Happened starts promisingly with the shoegazery "Returning," which features some great drum bashing from Dave Potter and a simple, catchy vocal melody.
Soft Targets' five-song Whatever Happened To Soft Targets? serves up a nice enough guitar-charged garage/grunge /pop with Bunnymen echoes to document the ever-in flux band's sound circa 2006. However, the sole instrumental ("Clearing The Bush") aside, the simplistic lyrics and weak, poorly enunciated vocals sound as if afterthought additions that otherwise undercut the other four songs.