Friday, January 31, 2014

The Pack A.D. Engages And Whatnot

The Pack A.D.
Leading off with Battering Ram on the Some Sssongs EP was a breakthrough for the The Pack A.D. — the Vancouver duo that has been putting out blues-infused garage rock for eight years. The EP lifted the band out from under the radar, giving them a good reason to re-record and release material to an entirely new audience.

They've been boiling over ever since, now with a new album that they recorded in two parts (2012 and 2013) in Detroit and Vancouver with Jim Diamond (White Stripes, Dirtbombs) who helped them drop Unpersons in 2011 and We Kill Computers in 2010. Both Becky Black and Maya Miller know that this combination of talents is working for them. They don't want to break it.

Do Not Engage means rock on for the near future. 

The 11-track album follows up nicely on the heels of the EP with few surprises. Black and Miller have always has played a range — big rock stompers to draw people in and rolling waves of atmospheric hum to keep them there. In concert, it's lively garage rock-alt pop hooks delivered with a one-two combination.

Boiling over with sci-fi themes and dystopian dreams, it was only a matter of time before The Pack A.D. would find themselves on the same sands used to shoot the series Battlestar Galactica. But even they aren't sure why they ended up dancing around in ebony and ivory ape suits. It just seemed like a good idea at the time. At the time.

Although not nearly as compelling as their Battering Ram video last year, it is more representative of dual leanings despite being one of their addictive throat punch songs. In contrast, check out the album leader Airborne with its rhythmic distortions and throwback hooks. But even with the more pop-centric approach, they never give up their rich blues influences.

It's impossible for them to give it up, largely because of Black's deep and smoky vocals. When coupled with her cutting guitar riffs, it leaves people at their live performances more than a little dizzy. Then there is Miller, who doesn't play the drums as much as she pummels them.

Their playing style is why they land squarely in the garage rock category (that and everyone in a two piece knows that you have to play twice as hard). And yet, they don't miss much of a beat mixing things up with the punked pulse of Animal or the dazzling dark and doomed psycho-spooker Creepin' Jenny (one of the most stylistically interesting on the album).

While there is some sense that the band stacked the front half of the album, there are still plenty of standouts worth the discovery. The Water buzzes along for four-plus minutes of straightforward buzz guitar rock sound with relatively laid back percussion and vocals. Stalking Is Normal packs in an addictive alternative edge. And Needles might be one of the sleepers on the album.

For an experimental stab, there is a lot to like about Loser. But to be honest, the distort on Black's vocals as she delivers some of the verse doesn't smolder as much as it makes you miss it without the distort. The Flight isn't so appealing either.

Do Not Engage By The Pack A.D. Racks 7.4 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

On the balance, there isn't any question why so many people want to support Black and Miller as one of the most dangerous duos emerging from the underground circuit. Frankly, that's fine with me. They deserve it. They have plenty of material to drudge up from the depth of sci-fi inspiration.

I really like the band so I was inclined to purchase the album. Plenty of people will find the front six songs might be good enough (minus one to make room for Needles). You can find Do Not Engage on Amazon or download it from iTunes. Barnes & Noble is carrying the vinyl LP. Find their mostly West Coast tour dates (to start) on Facebook.
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