Wednesday, July 9, 2008
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When Mint Records re-released the debut LP from Vancouver's The Pack A.D., I was knocked on my ass. Becky and Maya somehow managed to write a debut record that was full of gritty hybrid blues, but still had the chops to sing soulful ballads that bled with emotion. It usually takes years for a blues outfit to perfect those types of sounds, not a single release.
I tried hard to avoid using obvious metaphors, and stressed that - "Make no mistake, this record isn't awesome because two women are playing swampy blues. No, it's awesome because The Pack A.D. crushes it and they just happen to be women."
Well, out of nowhere the Pack is back with a follow up LP - Funeral Mixtape - and like Cappadonna would say, "put valve up to twelve. Put all the other LP's back on the shelf." After only three tracks it's obvious that the songs they penned for Tintype were just a terrific sounding appetizer and Becky and Maya are ready to serve up a heavy main course; one ready to stand beside the excellent releases by bands like Black Diamond Heavies and the Black Keys.
They still hit you in the mouth with that rough blues you'd expect, as the quick hitting opener (Blackout) and chainsaw guitars on Don't Have To Like You demonstrate, but The Pack A.D. has become so much more than your standard two piece ensemble. They try out so many styles that you are constantly left guessing where they are going next, but when the catchy hook of Making Gestures explodes on the chorus, you know there is no looking back.
Whether you look at the or the road trip anthem in waiting Wolves and Werewolves or their fantastic take on the New Orleans death march, Oh Be Joyful, you see that the duo has the talent to handle a diverse mix of experimentation and tradition. Wolves and Werewolves is built on a catchy rock riff, but rather than just let it play out they do a 180 with a chaotic, slowed down breakdown that is as heavy as any part of the record. On the latter, Becky plays the roll of the charismatic singer song writer as she takes center stage, but the chorus quickly throws you back into the familiar gritty swamp sounds.
Lyrically, Becky tales tells of violence, death and Civil War, but remarkably, she adds a husky tenderness at just the right time and it creating a dichotomy you wouldn't expect. On tracks like Shiny Things, the power of her voice, the crunch of the guitar and Maya's relentless assault on the tattered skins give way to a gentle falsetto and soothing voice (even with the grisly subject matter), lulling you into a sway before they crank it back up and turn the dance floor a sweaty mess.
The Pack A.D. seems to live in the tour van and the non-stop tours have helped the band control the pace of the record perfectly. The songs feel more like a live set than a staged recording. They recorded the songs live off the floor, which definitely helps, as does the way the sequenced the songs. When the powerful ballads June and Dannemora Blues start, it's hard not to close your eyes and nod along. The slow burners consume you, lulling you into a sense of security before they crank it back up with the monster sounds of Build, sending your energy through the roof.
Basically, everything I said about the Pack A.D. in the past still holds true, but somehow they've completely changed. They are bigger, badder, bolder and behind a ruthless tour schedule, they are going to be making fans all over North America. Might as well jump on board and enjoy the ride.