It’s appropriate that The Pack A.D.’s new album — their fifth — is entitled Do Not Engage because you need only listen to the first two or three songs to come to the conclusion that these women could seriously kick your ass. And I don’t just mean to the curb. I’m talking about beating you until you’re a bloody mess, lying on the ground, crying like a baby, begging them to leave you alone. What gives one that impression? Perhaps it’s singer/guitarist Becky Black’s potent voice, which is like a cross between that of The Kills’ Alison Mosshart and Joan Jett. Or maybe it’s the raw sound of Becky’s stabbing guitar riffs, which sound like they’re bursting through your speakers and clawing at you, vicious as hell. It could also be the duo’s other half, Maya Miller, and her loud, pummeling drum sound that threatens to blow your subwoofers and can leave you feeling more than a little dizzy, as though someone’s taken a hammer to your head.
Technically speaking, The Pack A.D. is considered garage rock and their music is certainly raw and aggressive enough to be considered such, but they’ve also got a distinct punk rock vibe going on, which is especially evident during the massive opener “Airborne” and the equally ballsy “Animal” — songs that call to mind Iggy and The Stooges. Meanwhile, songs like doom-laden “Creepin’ Jenny” and the vicious”Battering Ram” rock even harder than plenty of metal bands. “Battering Ram” is actually one of the more melodious tunes on the album, but it still kicks the shit out of half of the metal bands I’ve heard lately. And the duo would certainly be at home on a tour with bands like Lacuna Coil and In This Moment, two of the heaviest female-fronted metal acts today. Mind you, The Pack A.D. would also be at home on tour with plenty of male-fronted metal bands. Their tunes are truly that fast and furious all at once. But there is a feminine quality to The Pack A.D.’s music as well. You need only listen to one of their new tunes to realize the vocalist is, in fact, a woman. Her voice might not sound girly during much of Do Not Engage, but she does sound undeniably female. And her voice even sounds somewhat pretty at times, like during the anthemic “Stalking is Normal,” which is probably the most melodic song on hand, and “Loser,” which is like the duo’s version of a power ballad. “I do it to myself,” Becky sings during the latter, actually sounding vulnerable for a change. “When I’m lonely I have nobody to blame but me,” she confesses during the introspective tune. The album’s closing track, “Needles,” finds her sounding even more vulnerable as she sings things like “it’s easy to be terrified” and “I’m still sitting on needles and pins.”
If you like fuzzy, raw, lo-fi tunes like The Raveonettes have been putting out during recent years, or heavy and crafty songs like The White Stripes’ best, it’s high time you check out The Pack A.D. They’re like rock and roll’s best kept secret these days. And, speaking of The White Stripes, Do Not Engage finds Becky and Maya reunited with producer Jim Diamond, who’s probably most well-known for his work with the Stripes. This also must be said: if you’ve heard The Pack A.D. in the past and weren’t entirely hooked, you should do yourself a favor and listen to this album anyway because it’s easily their best, most fully-fleshed-out work to date.
Whether you want to drive around town blasting loud music while you give the world the finger, or you want something to listen to while you alternate between throwing up metal horns and pounding on your desk or steering wheel like a drum, Do Not Engage is sure to fuel your fire. And then some.