Two of the hardest-working women in rock ’n’ roll are Maya Miller and Becky Black, aka The Pack A.D. Here, they return with Do Not Engage, their fifth full-length studio album in seven years. These wolves in she’s clothing are still pounding out their solid two-piece stompers with all of the punk fervour and feminist fury we have come to expect. But, despite its arm’s-length moniker, Do Not Engage confirms that The Pack A.D. aren’t afraid to show their softer side.

A breach of personal space and a brave display of beastly beauty, the band’s 11-track debut on the Nettwerk label bespeaks a spiritual awakening that transcends the street-savvy vibe of their previous release, the JUNO-nominated Unpersons. Equally urgent, but perhaps a shade more mature in its temperament, this new offering opens with “Airborne,” an intoxicatingly ethereal number that finds Black’s plaintiff wails awash in an undulating ocean of Sonic-Youth reverb. Kim Gordon gets in the van with The Runaways as The Pack A.D. usher forth a spate of emotionally charged heavy hitters, like “Big Shot” and “Animal.” Gritty and besmirched beneath a minimalist guise, these bluesy babes are more than capable of tossing back whiskey and stage-divers with angry aplomb. Taking its cue from the novels of Stephen King, “Creepin’ Jenny” ventures into the deep, dark forests of the soul where the string-bending “Needles” finds the duo pitching woo amongst the tall, tall pines.

Compelled by Miller’s pulmonary throbs, Black stretches her vocals to the moon and back on the smooth modernity of “Rocket” and then liquefies her assets as “The Water” taps into the twin-fountainheads of our ladies of perpetual melancholy. Single and loving it, the anti-“Wrecking Ball” anthem “Battering Ram” is a cunning and catchy admonishment of the male-dominated music industry. The raw physicality of accompanying video effectively captures the band’s thoughts on the violent spectacle of performing live. Yet when the lights go up at the end of the night, Do Not Engage is anything but unapproachable. This is proof that even though their creative process isn’t always a pretty sight, the results are always pretty out of sight.

By Christine Leonard

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