Vancouver duo Maya Miller and Becky Black, better known as The Pack A.D. have released their fifth album, Do Not Engage. Miller and Black have put quite a new feeling into their latest album, combining rock and indie styles of music into something entirely energetic and, coincidentally, engaging. Black and Miller’s style of music has changed drastically from their early albums. What used to be primal and banshee music has grown into more substantial rock-style music with prominent vocals and instrumentals that are easier to enjoy.
The opening track “Airborne” retains some of the ethereal qualities of The Pack A.D.’s early music, but with a driving guitar line to keep the music flowing. “Big Shot” sounds somewhat like Weezer’s music back in the era of punk rock, whereas “Creepin’ Jenny” has a darker and bittersweet feeling. The main focus of the album is “Battering Ram” which reflects the roots of the group: stormy and somewhat chaotic, almost an anthem for dystopia. Black’s vocals and lyrical wit is exemplified in “Stalking Is Normal” which examines the tendency to become somewhat obsessed with a person through somewhat dark humour and wit. The closing track, “Needles,” is shockingly sober compared to the rest of the album and leaves the listener in a quiet and reflective state.
Do Not Engage is a good album on its own merits. Every component of the music is well made. However, it lacks a distinct character. Fans of early The Pack A.D. may be shocked to hear how the music has changed and more recent listeners will find a more refined style of music on the album — if a little less energetic. Black and Miller have created music that is easy to listen to and enjoy. However, one may worry that they’re trading individuality for popularity with a more general sound.