When The Pack A.D. first appeared on the Canadian music scene in the mid-2000s, they arrived with a bang. They were not the typical all-female pop band but rather a ferocious garage-rock duo. They were Canada’s answer to The Black Keys, The White Stripes, and The Kills, but edgier, grittier, and dirtier. Their early albums, particularly 2008’s Funeral Mixtape, 2010’s We Kill Computers, and 2011’s Unpersons, were critically acclaimed on both sides of the border and made them indie favorites. Becky Black and Maya Miller had become recognizable names across the country.
Mega-stardom, however, still eluded The Pack A.D. Possibly as an attempt to broaden their fan base, Black and Miller released Do Not Engage in 2014, which was the duo’s most radio-friendly output to date. Several amusing videos were also created to reach more people. The album, though, was arguably the weakest of the five albums they had produced to that point.
So what would the duo do as a follow-up? They returned to the drawing board and have shared an album that will have long-time fans exclaiming, “They’re back!” Positive Thinking is a riot from start to finish. The record is bookend by the first two releases – the anthemic and dizzying “So What” and the dark, brooding, slow-building rocker “Fair Enough”. The placement of the two songs is strategic, offering a barometer of what lies between.
Within this space lie ten songs that span the garage-rock universe. “Yes I Know” is a tidal wave and the album’s best song. Black’s deep guitar riffs and Miller’s heavy drum beats create an apocalyptic soundscape that intensifies and mesmerized. Black’s voice is menacing, like the singer heard on Unpersons’ “Haunt You”. “Teenage Crime” has a Joan Jett vibe – a song that blends catchy rock riffs with underlying grittiness. “Los Angeles” rivals “Yes I Know” as the album’s best song. This blistering track is The Pack A.D. at their best – loud, raucous, and intense.
Outside of the harder numbers, the Vancouver-based duo offer a bit of everything. “Is It So” melds together 50s jitterbug rock and blues rock to create an upbeat, danceable track. “Skin Me” is 90s grunge rock reinterpreted, as Black and Miller respectively channel their inner Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl. “Anyway” and “Sorrow” are surprisingly melodic yet enchanting numbers, where the band borrows from the likes of Speedy Ortiz to weave together spatial, garage-rock ballads.
Every band has its missteps, even Radiohead has its share. Fortunately, The Pack A.D. have rebounded quickly and offered one heck of an album. These lessons likely are the reason for naming record #6 Positive Thinking, where the present and future will only get better. So far, so good because Positive Thinking is one heck of an album. The album showcases why so many have embraced The Pack A.D. – it is fearless with the sole intention to blow our minds.
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