Initially Madeline Link’s solo project, PACKS have added three members (Shane Hooper on drums, Noah O’Neil on bass and Dexter Nash on lead guitar) to their line-up and are all set to release debut record ‘take the cake’ via Fire Talk and Royal Mountain Records. The Toronto-based band shared stages with the likes of Squirrel Flower and Odetta Hartman before everything changed and the record was actually written in both the city and the Ottawa suburbs where Madeline found herself quarantined with family last year…
The short and sweet 73 seconds of ‘Divine Giggling’ opens the record in slacker style before the fuzzy guitar sound of ‘Clingfilm’ finds Madeline opening up about her anxiety as she discusses brains melting and the struggle of facing a day outside: ‘My guts are wrapped in clingfilm’. ‘Two Hands’ has a Simpsons reference in its opening line (not the only time the band will talk about pop culture in their lyrics) before taking a darker turn with lyrics about drowning in quicksand being delivered against a Frankie Cosmos-meets-Rosie Tucker indie-garage rock sound.
‘Hangman’ is more breezy and jangly although words like ‘He makes you feel alive’ are delivered with an air of resignation. There’s also plenty of talk of the devil… Combining this with the melodic DIY element instantly brings to mind Daniel Johnston. ‘Hold My Hand’ ups the tempo once more with powerful questions about lost love – ‘Would you fly 3,000 miles just to hold my hand?’ – and ‘Unexpected hibernations’, while recent single ‘Silvertongue’ sounds somewhat akin to Deerhunter with an early ’90s grunge makeover. The penultimate ‘Blown By the Wind’ has Graham Coxon-esque guitar work and lyrics about being serenaded unsuccessfully before ‘U Can Wish All U Want’ closes the album in sparse, heartbreaking style as Madeline searches for something: ‘I don’t quite know my way around just yet’; ‘You can wish all you want’.
Madeline pleads ‘Let’s stick together’ on the final track of the album – and you’d be wise to heed her advice and enjoy a slice of ‘take the cake’.