It seems appropriate that in the hangover of the compartmentally-obsessive, overly cautious Grammy’s that I would have to review Do Not Engage, the new album from The Pack A.D. The Vancouver band is so unconcerned with its own safety and taxonomy that it would make a Grammy voter’s head spin. Rooted in blues rock, Becky Black and Maya Miller’s sound still smacks with the punk edge of Sonic Youth. It buzzes like the Black Keys with the riff-defined acuity of The White Stripes. It’s as straight-ahead as Japandroids without all the indefatigability.
The division of labor on these songs comes across more like the Keys than the Stripes. Miller is more than able to power a song instead of having to be carried across the finish line (sorry, Meg White). “The Flight” shows the ability of the duo to simmer over mostly kit work whereas the upbeats in “Animal” demonstrates Black’s willingness to throw the listener for a loop.
The Pack A.D. isn’t afraid to confront you with their lack of concern either. “Screw your indignity,” Black sings on “Big Shot” letting any listener know just what they can do with their hand-wringing over songs like “Stalking Is Normal.” They also welcome chaos with the line, “I think I said the end is coming/you said that’s great, I’ll be king.” Things may be slowly crumbling around them, but The Pack A.D. is more than content to rock out in the meantime.
And while the irreverence of the lyrics is welcomed, the vocal lines themselves can drag. Repetition of phrases straddles the fine line between mantra and monotony, too often finding itself on the side of the latter. This might seem like a small detail, but the album is already a slow burn; it doesn’t need to feel suffocating.
So in the ocean of thinkpieces, reactions, and reactions to reactions that is sure to come soon, Do Not Engage can be your lifeboat. As the title of the album suggests, it is wise—whether it’s from labels, comfort, or pointless arguing altogether–to keep your distance. The Pack A.D. certainly will.