THE PACK A.D. - POSITIVE THINKING
The Pack A.D. don’t have the time or patience to fuck around. They are two musicians who sound like five and that shit takes WORK. Fists pounding drums, guitars gutted and spent, the East Vancouver band is fierce, defiant, and determined. And with their new release, Positive Thinking, they’ve made their best, most daring record yet.
Positive Thinking is all carefully constructed chaos, crushing vulnerability, and massive swagger. Underneath the sprawl of its sonic infrastructure, singer/guitarist Becky Black and drummer Maya Miller—self described lifelong high school outcasts—traverse the hidden tunnels that connect all us damaged people together: anger, alienation, humour, sarcasm, sincerity, loneliness, grief.
“Positive Thinking explores the numbing day-to-day routine of depression and the fantastical ways that we look to mask it from ourselves and others,” Miller says. “The lyrics on this album are probably more personal to us than on any other record we've done.”
Over 12 tracks, Positive Thinking—the title itself equal parts facetious and honest—delves into apathy and ageism, sorrow and fear, fantasy and chilling reality. But the album’s opener, the acidic and abrasive, “So What,” also models ways in which light can make space in the dark.
“I wouldn't say either of us are particularly hopeful people, but there's humour to be found in the dark,” Black says. “I'm prone to negativity and nihilism, but I believe decay and growth exist simultaneously. And utopia is still worth striving for. Maybe not quite the Gene Roddenberry version, but something like it.”
Post-utopic-nihilist rock is another apt description of the Pack’s sound, though Positive Thinking finds the pair deviating into previously unventured territory. “Yes I Know” unleashes a ferocious, headbanging storm, a perfect manifestation of the song’s themes: the crushing anxiety and psychosis-inducing sameness of bland, banal corporate monotony. There’s the Nico-goes-pop vibe of “Anyway,” a high concept song that imagines the complex relationship between a villain and a hero. The raw and relentless “Sorrow” paints a complex portrait of the invisible pain of grief and depression. The rollicking “Is It So,” has an almost rockabilly vibe and it’s a blast. On “Error,” Black and Miller use pulsing guitars, a driving beat, and fine percussion details to help translate Dan Simmons’ book, The Terror, which was inspired by the real-life story of the ill-fated, 1845 Franklin expedition of the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, two ships that became icebound in the Canadian Arctic.
“When we first began, we could hardly play our own instruments, it was sloppy and our early shows were often a hot (drunken) mess,” Black recalls. “Even our small success back then is surprising. We tried really hard with not much more than raw potential. Over the years, we've become better musicians, and the songwriting has evolved in that it's increasingly more deliberate and thoughtful.”
Growing alongside Black and Miller was Jesse Gander (White Lung, Bison, Japandroids), who engineered all of their previous albums. “He’s been such an important and trusted part of our process, it seemed only right that we take the next step with this album in asking him to co-produce it,” Miller says. They recorded at Raincity Recorders in Vancouver, and the album was mastered by Heba Kadry in Brooklyn’s Timeless Mastering.
Positive Thinking isn’t a total overhaul of the Pack A.D. everybody knows and loves. They are still going to steal the spotlight on every damn bill and fucking level rooms with sheer force. But making this album—it was a reinvention, an old-school reckoning, and they’re better for it. We’re all better for it.
“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.”
POSITIVE THINKING TRACKLIST
01 So What
02 Yes, I Know
03 Teenage Crime
06 Los Angeles
09 Gold Eyes
10 Is It So
11 Skin Me
12 Fair Enough