In a world where Slash and Axl Rose are back together and playing stadiums, any rock 'n' roll reunion now seems possible.
Look at The Breeders - it's been 25 years since the Alternative Nation darlings have released an album with the lineup that made their most popular album, 1993's "Last Splash," a record that spawned a genuine hit single in the bass-led "Cannonball" (probably the only hit single to ever feature a vocalist making "ah-whoo-gah" boat noises). Sure, the band has done that thing over time that many of the bands from their era have done - they replaced members left and right and put out albums of varying quality. But when the "classic" lineup reunited to tour the 20th-anniversary reissue of "Last Splash," their fans and the press made it clear that they wanted the band to stick it out and make new music together.
Thus, "All Nerve," the band's first new album as a reformed entity. It's also an opportunity for bandleader Kim Deal to make a musical statement in a world where her pre-Breeders group, The Pixies, has gone on without her to varying degrees of success and acceptance. It's already 14 years ago that that group came back in one of the most surprising reunions in the annals of rock, and it's now been several years since Deal made the decision to not make new music with the band and left the studio while they were recording.
Not to pit them against each other, but it's likely that there will be a fair amount of folks who find this new Breeders album more dignified or enjoyable than the music that The Pixies have put out since Deal's departure. Part of this is because Deal is such a magnetic character and such a huge part of the Pixies' sound that it almost seems sacrilegious to many fans for that group to forge ahead without her. Truth be told, the Deal-less Pixies have done some great work with new bassist Paz Lenchantin, but the recipe is undeniably different.
On "All Nerve," Deal and her Breeders sound like they did before, to varying degrees. While the overall mood of the album is less bright and shiny (25 years of life experience has gone by, remember), it still sounds idiosyncratic, wiry, and full of spark.
Opener "Nervous Mary" couples a descending single-note guitar pattern with Deal's reliably breathy singing in its opening moments, suggesting a skewed torch song is unfolding, but, 45 seconds in, Jim Macpherson starts hammering the snare, and Kim's twin sister, Kelley, starts harmonizing. "Run for your life / they're coming up on us," Kim sings, the line landing with all anxiety intended.
"Wait in the Car" gets off to a good start with Kim Deal being very Kim Deal. "Good morning!" she shouts, apropos of seemingly nothing, which is the kind of stuff you want from Kim Deal. The band begins to churn, and Deal drops a line for the ages: "Always struggle with the right words," she sings, "meow, meow, meow, meow, meow." Later, she commands someone to "wait in the car." It's weird and goofy and catchy and somehow both off-putting and warm.
There are unexpected moments, like "MetaGoth," a suitably icy number that finds bassist Josephine Wiggs on vocals, or "Archangel's Thunderbird," a vaguely proggy stutter-step tune, but much of the record is comprised of decent-to-good indie-rock songs that feature the Deal sisters making a racket in the way that they used to. In that sense, "All Nerve" is a successful release. The Breeders, 25 years later, still sound like themselves.
Artist: The Breeders
Album: "All Nerve"
Produced by: The Breeders
Personnel: Kim Deal (guitar, vocals), Kelley Deal (guitar, vocals), Josephine Wiggs (bass), Jim Macpherson (drums)