The Pack A.D. - comprised of guitarist/vocalist Becky Black and drummer Maya Miller - are back with their fifth album (and their first on Nettwerk Productions) 'Do Not Engage'. 'Airborne' opens the album with a pounding, repetitive and memorable drum beat tied together with a shaky guitar pattern that jitters in and out of the 4/4 timing.
Black's dreamlike moody vocals are what stand out immediately. Since The Pack A.D's first album 'Tintype', we've heard a maturity steadily developing in BB's voice and it now appears to be at a pinnacle. Second song 'Big Shot' stomps out its melody and is much less tender. Again, the vocals stand out greatly, only this time they have more attitude and a sense of anger to them. 'Animal' is very bold with low guitar notes that slide back and forth, and there's an attempt to be sexy with the crooning of "You oo oo, you animal" in the chorus. 'Creeping Jenny' is also a fun listen with its bouncing riff and roaring vocals.
The earlier tracks on the album show something that set The Pack A.D. apart from many other 21st century blues rock acts, yet as the album moves on there's a distinct lack of originality. From this point, the album takes on a more generic tone; 'Battering Ram' and 'Stalking Is Normal' aren't overly catchy, however the fuzz and husky vocals at least offer the listener something that reminds them that they're still listening to The Pack A.D.
'Loser' returns to the more soothing atmosphere of 'Airborne' but with bursts of loud and gnarly guitars and drums. The calm flashes make the punchy parts more hard-hitting and notable. Perhaps the addition of some quiet/loud dynamics would improve the weaker moments in songs such as 'Battering Ram'. 'The Flight' is also interesting, with Black's vocals sounding isolated and slightly depressed as she sings of themes of insecurity and regret: "Why can't I start over?"
All in all, 'Do Not Engage' is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, there are some really great songs on this album, namely 'Loser', 'Animal' and 'Big Shot', but there are also songs that just lack bite and follow a blues rock by numbers pattern that might only appeal to hugely devoted blues and garage rock fans. Listen to the album in the search for some gems, but not with expectations of a masterpiece.
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