Influence is a hard thing to escape. Some bands spend their entire catalogues running away from it while others embrace it wholeheartedly. Sofy Major is the latter, one for whom a certain strain of ’90s post-hardcore reigns supreme, most notably bands such as Unsane and Shellac. But just like in the era from which their sound originates, one band comes out on top: The Jesus Lizard. Sofy Major sounds so much like The Jesus Lizard that it almost feels redundant to state it. Put on their second album, Idolize, and you’ll understand: This is a band that is unapologetically revivalist. In their early days, it made for unremarkable listening. Their songwriting hadn’t yet progressed to the point that their recreations of their influences were fun; instead, they just reminded the listener to go seek out the real thing. 2015’s Waste took a step forward—their songwriting was getting better, and the record even included a few real stand out moments. Things were looking up.
But on Sofy Major’s newest record, Total Dump, the band has simply traded The Jesus Lizard for a new band. Get just two songs into Total Dump and the name will be on the tip of your tongue: Melvins. Melvins are all over this album. In fact, they are this album. While the heavier side of grunge had always been in Sofy Major’s DNA, it never jumped out to the forefront like it does here. And it’s exhausting. Any hopes for a new, more creative Sofy Major have been dashed, and the same problems that plagued Idolize are back. Now, Total Dump doesn’t steal wholly from Melvins: For one, Sofy Major go for a less heavy sound, as well as slightly more energetic one. Unfortunately, these changes make the Melvins formula worse, and not better. There is something almost admirable about the degree to which Sofy Major wear their influences on their sleeves, if it weren’t so hard to listen to.
Outside of the obvious influences, there isn’t much to say about a series of tracks that, in addition to sounding like another band, all sound like each other. By consequence, Total Dump becomes a slog. Records this middling are frustrating: not bad enough to elicit hate but not good enough to be truly loved.
A contemporary comparison to Sofy Major is Greta Van Fleet, another band who apes a legendary group. It’s easy to pick on GVF, from their goofy costumes to their endless dad appeal—they’re dorky and they refuse to admit it. At the very least, Sofy Major attracts a cooler crowd, and as an added plus they don’t look like Coachella puked on them. But the same root problem hurts both bands. Like Greta Van Fleet, Sofy Major have made themselves inextricable from the groups that they’re influenced by. And like Greta Van Fleet, their songs aren’t as compelling as those bands. The consequence of this is, if I’m in the mood for Sofy Major, then I’m really in the mood for Melvins, or The Jesus Lizard. And there’s not reason not to just reach for those bands instead.