The Pack A.D. deliver their most hard hitting, personal and overall best work to date.
Hailing from Vancouver, Becky Black and Maya Miller are the self-proclaimed, lifelong high school outcasts that make up the Pack A.D. From their debut album Tintype, the duo has been delivering raw, loud and energetic blues-rock that have drawn worthy comparisons to early Black Keys, the Runaways, and the Kills. Positive Thinking is the culmination of the band’s development since then. It’s honest, brazenly unbashful, and their strongest work to date.
A fuzzed out guitar and decidedly nihilistic lyrics rudely welcome listeners on the album’s opening track, “So What”. Black sings at the chorus, “Cause I've already won / Why would I give it another shot? / Bells are ringing / Tell me you like me / Well I like you too / So what?” The stomping “Yes, I Know” follows and it already seems like this album is going to be a fierce and personal joyride through the two bandmate’s own neuroses.
Throughout the album’s duration, Black’s lyrics succeed is delving into grim subjects of ageism, anxiety, and depression without wallowing in them. Her vocal tone an appropriate mix of detachment with the occasional and especially satisfying angry, snarling outbursts (see “Yes, I Know”, “Fair Enough”). The production on Positive Thinking is also better than any of the Pack A.D.’s previous work. Black’s guitars are warmer and less shrill than they tended to be on prior albums, while Miller’s beats are always tight and forceful without being overly present. These are certainly two musicians who are in sync and in their songwriting prime.
Where this album succeeds most is when the duo strays from their roots without totally abandoning their signature edgy attitude. “Teenage Crime” has the unrelenting power chord attack which approaches on punk territory, while “Anyway” finds them teetering on the edge of '80s-era pop. “Sorrow” slows down to present a solemn, picturesque and serene view of sadness. “Error” somehow adapts a Dan Simmons novel to a song that features a ghostly and psychedelic outro. And the album’s finale, “Fair Enough” is hands down one of the best rock songs that will be released this year.
However, amidst the number of standout hits are a few tracks which are forgetful and this is the only area where Positive Thinking falls short. A few songs sound like throwaways and may have been better off being featured as bonus tracks to keep this album a little more tightly focused.
This doesn’t detract from the refreshing ability to listen to such pure and effective rock that thrives in its intimate portrayal of personal difficulties. “We’ve gone back and found the place where we started from,” Miller says. “This may have been one of the most difficult albums for us personally to work on but because of that, it's also been the most comfortable. There isn't a single moment where I feel like we've done any of it for anyone but ourselves.” This is often where musicians present their best work. Unhindered by any fan expectation or pressure; just two craftswomen working to construct their best product, and it seems Black and Miller may have done just that.