Published Jan 27, 2014Vancouver duo Maya Miller and Becky Black are seemingly poised for global domination after taking their Pack a.d. project from indie darling Mint Records to international conglomerate Nettwerk. Continuing their move away from the raw sound of their first couple of albums, their fifth studio effort contains less blatant garage fuzz and blues worship, usurped by a keener ear for melody and chorus. Although still an aural product of the '90s, it is less punk, more pop-punk. Where their earlier infatuation with guitar distortion, unbridled angst, and icky thump drums could have toured wonderfully with the likes of Ty Segall and Jack White, Do Not Engage is more streamlined and stadium-sized, just as suitable for a tour with Avril Lavigne or Tegan and Sara as the Black Keys or Japandroids.
They didn't exactly reinvent the wheel for this album, though. The Pack retained the services of producer Jim Diamond (the White Stripes, the Dirtbombs), who lent his distinctive Detroit perspective to their two previous albums. Miller's drumming still expertly threads the needle between tribal and tasteful, and Black still destroys her guitar like nobody's business. Sure, they sound more focused and professional on Do Not Engage, but they have done that on every album they've released. It comes as no surprise they've maintained the upward trajectory that their performance and song writing skills have earned them.
Black's vocals can be somewhat aloof on the album, but her cool exterior shatters on single "Battering Ram" as she yells through a broken mic over the album's heaviest riff and driving drums. She emotes freely on the downtrodden ballad "Loser", her voice awash in effects as she nails the confessional, conversational tone that made tracks like "Seasick" from 2011's Unpersons so compelling. Most haunting is the pared-down "Needles," which finds Black delivering some of the album's most heartfelt lyrics as she slowly strums her guitar. Moments like these show the Pack at the top of their game, and their timing couldn't be better.
Read an interview with the Pack A.D. here. (Nettwerk)