Soft Targets live at the Note, ChicagoSoft Targets live at Memories, Portage ParkSoft Targets live at Ronny's Bar, Logan Square


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 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 nothin' 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 half way through would be forgettable. I get the feeling that the Soft Targets have a great affection for late '70's 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.


Soft Targets Take Garage Rock Revival To New Heights on "Don't Put Out"

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 there 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. Band 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.


Ever been to a gig where the bands don't mix together? Like that classic Chav Elvis gig at The Shed in Leicester where a homespun folk duo preceded the gargantuan Elvis parody mayhem only to be followed by some earnest indie band who actually gave a fuck and emptied the place... well, you had to be there. Soft Targets manage such an uneasy melange within the course of every song on this infuriatingly misfiring CD. Just when you are enjoying a Stoogey punk workout, amiable and shambolic, along comes a wearying guitar solo or a riff workout of staggering banality. If the Soft Targets don't put out it's because they are too busy fret wanking. There's a decent punk band hiding away in all the guff.


Not to be confused with the band of the same name from Tallahassee, Chicago’s Soft Targets is trekking forward with its third album, Don’t Put Out. Here, these songs are distinguished by oft-serious subject matter delivered with light-headed personality (“When The Apocalypse Comes”). Paired with its upbeat, lo-fi guitar-driven output and you get a non-depressing look at modern times.


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 TARGETS 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 which suggests writing Soft Targets just yet could well be a mistake. So let's cut them some slack. They are from Chicago, after all.



Soft Targets Must Be Destroyed

COLUMBIA CONNECTION: Guitar player and label owner Chris Auman (BA '93) graduated from Columbia's fiction writing program.

THE SOUND: Post punk/indie  

THE WORD: 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 here 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 in the manifestation of the spirit of the late 70s/early 80s that makes this record and exiting modern document.

—Max Herman, ROCTOBER #46

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.




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.


As soft as steel and as convenient and economical as Target this Chicago treasure better not keep getting buried by pirates . . . we need them. Albums include guitar playing, singing, bass thumping, and drumming; all of which are very good.


COLUMBIA CONNECTION: Guitar player and label owner Chris Auman (BA '93) graduated from Columbia's fiction writing program.

THE SOUND: Post-punk/Indie

THE WORD: 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 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

—Brent Steven White, DEMO MAGAZINE



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."

—Tom Lynch, NEW CITY


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. After that, though, things go wrong and stay that way. It's bold to make an instrumental the second track on your CD, but the instrumental in question, "Clearing the Brush (on Brokeback Mountain)," is saddled not only with a terrible name but with a go-nowhere chord progression that sucks away any excitement still lingering in the air after "Returning." The faux-reggae "Crushed" doesn't do much to redeem the disc (or the idea of unfunky punks trying to get even a little bit irie), and the last two songs are a forgettable blur of awkward structures and half-assed melodies. The Soft Targets may be shooting for inspired ennui, but by the end it comes off more like plain old boredom.


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.


Whataya doing Stimac? So you're a foot-pee-er aren't you? There's just so much shit to do. Are you friends with the press release? These are mandates. Ball-spot torpedo tycoon sixshits. Zack wants to know if I can stretch this shit out to 150 words, but goddamnit! I wanna go get a burger

—Rotten Milk, LUMPEN




Bare-bones rock in the tradition of Built to Spill and Flamin' GrooviesTIME-OUT CHICAGO



Lawyers by Day Rockers by Night

Eric Herman, Staff Reporter (January 1, 2007)

When he's not prosecuting murderers and drug dealers, John Kezdy stands on stage singing "Body Bag."

Mark Shlifka, also a prosecutor, sticks to more mainstream music, revving up bar crowds with favorites like Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion."

Lawyers have a reputation for being boring. Prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers, whose work deals with life-and-death events, can be wound extra tight. But a handful of Chicago criminal lawyers defy the stereotype, playing in clubs and recording studios across the city. And they see parallels, up to a point, between trial work and playing music.

"Playing live for people is like winning a jury trial. It's just the best feeling," said Dan Kiss, a Cook County assistant public defender and bass player for Soft Targets. "There's a lot less pressure, too. No one goes to prison if you play a bad show."

New record coming out

Kezdy runs the statewide grand jury bureau of the Illinois attorney general's office. But long before law school, he had found another consuming passion: punk rock.

The turning point, he said, was hearing the Sex Pistols' "Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols."

"That album changed my life," said Kezdy, 47. "It wasn't just the music. It was the whole attitude."

Kezdy formed the Effigies in 1980 after dropping out of the University of Wisconsin. They played Chicago clubs and toured the United States in a van. The Effigies recorded three albums of original songs, including "Body Bag."

The band split up after six years. Kezdy resumed his education and decided to become a prosecutor. Then, in 2003, two former bandmates approached him about reviving the Effigies. He agreed.

Their first record of new material in 20 years, "Reside," comes out this month.

Though punk rock had an anti-authority message at its core and many of its icons died from drug abuse, Kezdy sees no conflict between playing it and representing the state in criminal cases.

"I've never seen punk rock as being synonymous with breaking the law. To me, the basic things that I admire in punk rock, they end up being kind of old conservative values: independence, complete self-reliance," he said.

But while Kezdy delights in a "music of ideas," Johnny Justice and the Southside Railroad just want to entertain. The six-member group includes four Cook County assistant state's attorneys and a Chicago Police detective.

$500 to $1,200 a gig

Shlifka and fellow Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Eric Leafblad, both guitarists, met at the Criminal Courts Building and formed Johnny Justice in 1997. Since then, they have developed a following in bars from Orland Park to Evanston.

Johnny Justice prides itself on the diversity of its song list, which ranges from Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" to "All the Small Things" by Blink-182. Shlifka, 44, calls their repertoire "50 years of mainstream pop."

"No matter what age group we appear in front of, we seem to appeal to them," said Shlifka, who in recent murder trials won guilty verdicts against two Colombian drug dealers and their hired gunman.

The band also includes Cook County Assistant State's Attorneys Tom Darman on keyboards and Scott Clark on vocals and saxophone, police detective Jenny Christoforakis on drums and vocals, and Kevin Revak on bass. They typically play two club gigs a month, getting anywhere from $500 to $1,200 per show.

"Most trial lawyers tend to enjoy the spotlight a little bit," said Clark, 35. "I think you develop kind of a thick skin about putting it out there in front of strangers."

First CD on way

Kiss, who also works at the Criminal Courts Building, has played music since high school. Like Kezdy, he became smitten with punk at an early age. When not defending people accused of crimes, Kiss delights in Soft Targets' "rock with pop and punk undertones."

The band plays clubs about once a month and will release its first CD on Jan. 31. Kiss says some lawyers in his office consider playing in a band "immature."

"The people in my office who don't get it think the proper way to express yourself for a mass audience is to write a blog. And they don't understand why you'd want to be around smoke and alcohol," he said.


Pure Hype! With the Soft Targets

Sean Redmond (April 13, 2006 in Music)

Break out your beat up leather jackets, folks we're going for a ride. A ride through rock'n'roll history, back to an era when a rock band was more than just a few guys with guitars, an era when music was the revolution and rock stars were the leather-clad guerrillas taking over our airwaves and our ideologies. The late 70s. The Clash. Punk. The movement, like all era-defining movements in history, has since been swept to the wayside (although I'm sure there are a bunch of diehard 16-year-olds who will insist to the contrary; in fact, I think I can hear them blaring Green Day off in the distance. . .no wait, that's just VH1); but while the era of punk may be gone, it's most definitely not forgotten Johnny Rotten and Co. left their mark not only on the fellow bands of the moment, but also helped pave the way for the post-punk, new wave, and indie rock scenes of the 80s, and these bands and their music continue to inspire legions of followers today.

Enter the Soft Targets Chris Auman (guitar, vocals), Reg Shrader (guitar), Tim Davison (bass), and Perry Finch (drums). They're by no means a punk rock band, but their angular guitar crunch is more than a little indebted to the Clash, Wire, and the rest of those no-good punks. The band also draws on the post-punk edginess of the Fall, the unabashed pop sensibilities of XTC and the Soft Boys, and the left-of-center garage-pop aesthetics of more recent bands like Guided By Voices and early Flaming Lips to create a focused, tight-knit unit that revels in creating three minute bursts of snarky, high-octane guitar pop. Add in Auman's slight Midwestern drawl, and these Chi-town rockers have created a winning formula that combines the best elements of their sneering 70s forebears with the innovative developments of the 80s underground to create a natural evolution of a sound that came off as remarkably fresh from its conception and, thanks to the fine-tune tweaking of Auman and the rest of the Targets, still sounds fresh and vibrant today. But don't just take my word for it. Tune in Friday night at 9pm to WHPK, 88.5fm, and hear the Soft Targets in all their live glory for yourself, right in the comfort of your own home. Hey looks like you won't need that jacket after all.