Album Review: PACKS – Take The Cake

Charm…it’s a word that keeps getting bandied about when describing skinny indie t-shirt girl Madeline Link and her quartet PACKS. Also lazy…as in a lazy summer vibe, but sometimes lazy as in she can’t be bothered to enunciate because she’s so ‘cool’, or maybe she’s trying to invoke the 90’s American indie vibe of the Lemonheads, Pavement, Beck, Whale etc. On first sight there’s a lot to find fault with here. The ever so slightly kooky drawl. The purposefully woozy, lo-fi production. The cutesy knee length socks in converse sneakers sound of the whole thing. This lot probably think the definition of a nerd is someone who wears glasses.

From the opening notes of title track “Diving Giggling” we are transported to that world depicted in many American (although they hail from Canada) films of suburban homes with drop down driveways and no fences, blonde kids skateboarding down the street, pestering their Moms for milk and cookies and forming bands in their double garages, but it’s never loud enough to disturb the neighbours ‘cos they’re all just so goddamn cute. There are comparisons made to Pavement and I can hear it from time to time in the strummed guitar but apart from that, not at all, as Pavement always struck me as a band with intent, honesty and humour that is lacking here. What is prevalent here is the way everything seems to melt together. Take for example “Clingfilm”, all the sounds meld and merge creating a lovely big sticky cheesy mess of a song that it’s so nice to wallow in. There are no edges…it’s all marshmallow, soft and squishy. All the songs are 2 and half minutes or under so they don’t outstay their welcome and each continues this cosy comfy trajectory. It’s like diving into a bag of flumps. ‘I feel like I’m wading through some swampland’ Link says in “Two Hands”, but all sang with no real sense of urgency, like everything is ok and nothing really matters. This is the aforementioned quicksand that she pulls up her pant legs so as not to get caught in. But we’re all caught in it and it feels ok. We’ve been sucked in and it’s not unpleasant. “Hangman” is a dreamy trawl despite the nightmarish and unsettling lyrics of screaming and being stared at. “My Dream” drifts in a haze. “Hold My Hand” a lazy lolloping indie that can’t quite pick itself off the ground, like an overfed bird. And so it continues. “Silvertongue” is probably as active as things get, reminding me a little of Veruca Salt, it flops and flips in a dreamy midsummer stupor before resting exhausted from its ‘vim and vigour’.”Blown By The Wind” is just that, and we are drifting back to earth with “U Can Wish All You Want”, the journey never taking us too far from that driveway, but at least we’ve had our fill of soft sticky sweets. The evidence is all over your face.

It’ll charm the pants off you, then the socks and shoes and anything else you can use as armour against its incessant charm. And it won’t stop there. It’ll charm you into submission until you’re writhing on the street in your birthday suit screaming “This is my new favourite band!”

Take The Cake is out now on Fire Talk and Royal Mountain Records – order on vinyl, CD or digital download via Bandcamp.

Find out more on PACKS’ official website.

Review by Andrew Wood

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