The follow-up to Crispy Crunchy Nothing is short, but packed full of off-kilter, lo-fi indie rock in which its creator’s songwriting prowess shines through
Originally started as the solo project of Canadian musician Madeline Link, Packs quickly expanded into a quartet after Links released her debut album Take The Cake. Since then, they’ve become an increasingly prolific act, with Melt The Honey quickly following up Crispy Crunchy Nothing which was released just 10 short months ago.
If you’re already familiar with Packs’ sound, you’ll know what to expect on Melt The Honey. The band’s third album is a short (28 minutes) affair, but packed full of off-kilter, lo-fi indie rock. All too often, being too prolific is a by-word for lack of quality control, but that’s certainly not the case here. The relaxed slacker vibe and production values may put some off, but Link’s songwriting prowess shines throughout.
Her talent is in making the mundane seem compelling – amongst the subjects tackled on Melt The Honey are the tale of a cat who hangs out at their studio (told from the cat’s perspective, of course), the dangers of neglecting to back up a hard drive, and some corn syrup. Honey is a gorgeously lazy number recalling a Chilean beach town where Link lived for a while (“Everyone explained it to me, and I’ve seen what it’s like on TV”).
A brilliantly fuzzy guitar riff introduces HFCS, which boasts a surprisingly catchy chorus of “high fructose corn syrup” – it’s a fair bet there won’t be a better ode to food products during the rest of the year. It’s only just over two minutes long, but Packs find a way to pack a lot into it: coruscating guitars and stop-start melodies and all.
There are nods to early Liz Phair at times, especially on the woozy, disorientating Her Garden, while one of the best tracks on the album Missy, is a big, bright anthem told from the perspective of a cat – “oh my deepest regrets, did I get those fleas to bite you?” runs one line – with a whispered spoken Spanish contribution from Lupita Rico.
Sometimes it all feels a bit too laidback for its own good. Trippin in particular sounds like Link is about to nod off, while sometimes the heavily narcotic atmosphere overwhelms the songs, as is the case on tracks like Pearly Whites and Paige Machine. Amy W is a much better example of Packs’ sound, a brief instrumental which really demonstrates how the rest of the band (Noah O’Neill, Dexter Nash and Shane Hooper) have boosted Links’ sound – it’s a good summation of just how much of a fully fledged band Packs sound right now.
It’s not a perfect album – you get the impression that Packs as a band are still figuring out their sound, and they’re at that stage where plenty of ideas are going to be thrown around. Yet, as the closing, acoustic strum of Time Loop says: “Hope you come back soon”. Given Link’s work rate, it’s a fair bet that they’ll do exactly that.