Sound Advice: Beach Holiday, by Soft Copy
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Sound Advice: Beach Holiday, by Soft Copy

Local post-punk act makes virtue out of necessity and embraces new, drum–machine driven sound.

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For most bands, losing a drummer represents a pretty severe crisis. Either you find a new one, and hope that her commitments to three other bands won’t screw with your plans too much, or else you break up. (For all the jokes made at their expense, drummers are to rock and roll what goalies are to men’s league hockey—there are never enough of them to go around.)

Local post-punk outfit Soft Copy opted to go in another direction. What was once a three-person band is now a two-man outfit with a drum machine. Thirty-five years after the rise of the drum machine in popular music, this shouldn’t be shocking, but guitar-based rock genres have a long history of viewing drum machines as a sort of alien technology.

While this wouldn’t be the case for every band, Soft Copy hasn’t suffered at all for the lack of a drummer. Indeed, its brand of slightly cold post-punk benefits from the machine’s mechanical thump. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the opening track, “All the Things.” The drum machine’s incessant, perfect beats combine with clanging, Mission of Burma–influenced guitars, a distorted bass line, and ethereal, faraway vocals to create something that’s simultaneously emotionally complex and thrashy and urgent. The title track evokes similar feelings, as the straight–ahead, classic indie-rock chords and Sloan-ish vocals suddenly move into something a little edgier and more desperate for the chorus, and the pulsating bass moves to the forefront. “Random Acts of Violence” is another track worthy of mention, with its singalong chorus, distorted, sharp, slashing guitars, and drums that sound remarkably un-machine-like.

Drummers probably shouldn’t panic over Soft Copy’s success at integrating a drum machine into a guitar-based band—most bands need a percussionist who can improvise a little. But for a band whose sound is built around a sort of machine-like precision, it works. Still, Beach Holiday is proof that drum machines don’t need to be the exclusive domain of electronic musicians and hip-hop producers.