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Music Picks

If You Can't Beat 'Em

Embrace the rainy blues with Vancouver's The Pack A.D.

By Elaine Corden 6 Mar 2008 | TheTyee.ca

Elaine Corden writes regularly about music and pop culture for The Tyee. You can read her blog, Dangerfield, or her other Tyee columns.

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Ferocious, sludgy and dirty.

If you're at all like me, the past few months -- the letdown of January, and the long, sucking bummer of February -- have you a little blue. Maybe a lot blue. And while there are a number of ways to combat pre-spring S.A.D. -- a run, a vacation, a morphine drip -- there's something to be said for embracing your blues as well.

Should you choose this option, allow me to recommend the latest album from local duo The Pack A.D. as your soundtrack. Their first album proper (released on Mint Records), Tintype is a 16-track foray into raw, dirty blues, perfect for sulking, skulking, rowdiness and general bad-assery.

Comprised of two women, drummer Maya Miller and guitarist/vocalist Becky Black, Vancouver's The Pack A.D. is a force to be reckoned with. The easiest way to describe them is "The White Stripes with two powerful women instead of one," but they are so much more than that.

Tintype opens with the ferocious "Gold Rush," a sludgy affair that assaults the ears with drums and sticky riffs before Black's amazing vocal kicks in. Truly, Black has one of the most unusual female voices to emerge out of the city in some time. While a comparison to the world's most famous female blues belter, Janis Joplin, will be at the tip of everyone's tongue, Black's voice has shades of Robert Plant, and, most surprisingly, '70s-era Buddy Guy (back when he was still sexy as hell and living in symbiosis with his guitar). Meanwhile Miller's drums are spot-on -- aggressive when they need to be, restrained when restraint is called for.

While the album is more of piece than a single-by-single affair, the moodiest track on the record is "Bang" which starts off with the line "Take your gloves off / and fight like a man" and just gets more ornery from there, the guitar riff a haunting accomplice to Black's wail. I also suggest "What's up There," which is positively menacing, and "Got Up" (not available online), a quiet potboiler that recalls old-school bluesmen like Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson.

The Pack A.D. is off to South By Southwest next week to wow the music industry, so if you missed their tour kickoff at The Railway Club last Saturday night, you probably missed your last chance to see them in a small venue. And if that gets you down, well, proceed to the top for instructions on treating the blues.

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