Actually, DO Engage This One
The Pack A.D., a Vancouver-based garage rock duo made up of singer/guitarist Becky Black and drummer Maya Miller, have had custody over their genre following the dissolution of the White Stripes and the changing palette of the Black Keys. Or, at least, they play like they do. On Do Not Engage, the band’s latest album and first since it was signed to Nettwerk, the two women carry on the spirit of Jack White, but with an approach that leans more toward the sensibilities of the Angus soundtrack and less toward the blues-oriented eruptions of the Stripes. The result is a raw heap of kinetic energy that is just plain fun.
Engage is a bit of a change for The Pack. There are fewer catchy riffs compared to 2011’s Unpersons and the production is cleaner. Engage is no slumberfest, though. The single, “Big Shot,” and following song “Animal,” are the highlights of the album. “Big Shot” marries an intriguing rhythm guitar with a memorable vocal melody and driving drums that all give The Pack some cred as ’90s revivalists. “Animal” rocks more and is catchier, with a chorus that would be far more ubiquitous in a more rock-friendly age.
“Loser” and “Needles” are welcomed interruptions of the steady stream of big drums and big riffs. “Loser” starts out slow. A plucked guitar part and flanged vocals bubble along with interjections from crashing drums, evoking a time when MTV played music videos (even the rock ones). “Needles,” the album’s closer, eschews drums altogether. The clean, strummed guitar supports pensive vocals that float along on a sea of molasses, barely enunciating “I’m still sitting on needles and pins.” It’s all wrapped up in the arms of space echo. It’s evidence that amid the raw energy lies some delicate beauty.
It is great that The Pack A.D. are progressing in their career, but here’s hoping the next album brings back more of the catchy riffs of their past work.