PACKS, “Melt the Honey”

Their third full-length in four years captures the Toronto garage rockers at their most vigorous and imperfectly comforting.

PACKS, Melt the Honey

Their third full-length in four years captures the Toronto garage rockers at their most vigorous and imperfectly comforting.

Words: Margaret Farrell

January 22, 2024

Melt the Honey

A noisy tomcat, the demise of Mark Twain, and high-fructose corn syrup—at first glance, there seems to be no common denominator here. But on their third album Melt the Honey, PACKS creates the throughline. Such is the subtle magic of the Toronto-based garage-rock band. Songwriter Madeline Link finds inspiration in the small details of her life and the lives of those around her, with the curious enthrall of desire lingering throughout the diverse topics the band undertakes. The album’s title comes from Link’s experience in Chile where she would delicately warm honey without burning it as a substitute for maple syrup—an apt metaphor for a band that survives off a fragile balance of raw melancholia. 

Wrapped up in the gauzy, jammy compositions of guitarist Dexter Nash, bassist Noah O’Neil, and drummer Shane Hooper, Link’s casual drawl on Melt the Honey helps PACKS capture their sound at its most imperfectly comforting. The group released their debut album Take the Cake in 2021, with the WOAH EP arriving the following year, and their Crispy Crunchy Nothing LP dropping last March. Not even a year later, their newest 11-track project lands with more vigor than any of its predecessors. “These songs are happier, or more optimistic, than any I’ve written,” Link revealed ahead of the release. “I was feeling generally less horrible than I have in the past.” 

At times, it shows. “HFCS” is a Ty Segall–esque banger that indulges in the aforementioned candied condiment as it seeks an artificial remedy for gloom. “It’s a gamble I should not take / But I’m doing it anyway,” Link sings on the first verse, playfully elongating the gerund with a lollipop-spiral effect. There’s a sinister, almost dangerous, edge to the track, as Link craves the dopamine so much she risks a sweetness overdose. The following instrumental, “AmyW,” is the perfect psych-rock companion that feels like an ominous fever dream. As we’re falling down a sugary blackhole left in the aftermath of “HFCS,” here, PACKS are at their fiercest. 

Despite Link’s note of happier songs, there’s still an underlying sense of unease and disorientation. Various mentions of sleeping and dreaming are emphasized by the majority of the album’s mellow, viscous tone. There’s a stunning moment on the tender “Take Care” where Link sings, “With me, I don’t take care / But with you, I will, I swear.” There’s a ghostly reverb on the last two words, as if she’s fallen down a well, crying out her last will. 

Toward the album’s end, PACKS come down from their sugar high/acid trip. The last two songs—“Trippin” and “Time Loop”—deal with time’s flummoxing nature. “I’m anxious and salivating, proves that I’m alive,” Link sings, stressing her nervous and alert state. She then repeats in a relaxed cry, “It’s not hopeless, yet.” It leaves us on a bit of a cliffhanger, between the tension that comes with confusion and the yearning that sustains Melt the Honey—though it should only another year or so before that’s amended.