Where To Start With... The Breeders
Anyone familiar with the history of alternative rock band Pixies will probably also know a little about the fractious relationship between their frontman Charles 'Black Francis' Thompson and the band's bassist and backing vocalist Kim Deal, one of several contributing factors that eventually led to their split in 1993, just as the world was beginning to catch up with a band whose sound was way ahead of their time. While fans of the band were left wondering what might have been when Thompson infamously dissolved the band via fax machine, one of the upsides of the Pixies' demise was the emergence of Deal's new band: The Breeders.
Originally the name of a two-piece folk duo comprising a teenage Kim Deal and her twin sister, Kelley, the Breeders name was revived for a new side project formed alongside Throwing Muses' Tanya Donnelly while Pixies were on hiatus; the result of a particularly tense European tour in support of the band's sophomore album, Doolittle.
After recruiting a rhythm section comprising The Perfect Disaster bassist Josephine Wiggs and Slint drummer Britt Walford, the band hooked up with producer Steve Albini to record their raw and riotous debut album, Pod. Deal soon returned to the recording studio with Pixies, who released Bossanova in 1990 and Trompe Le Monde a year later before a notoriously unhappy support slot on U2's Zoo Tour proved to be the final nail in the band's coffin.
Donnelly would appear on one more recording with The Breeders – 1992's Safari EP – before leaving to concentrate on her new band, Belly. Donnelly was replaced by Deal's sister Kelley, while Jim McPherson replaced Walford's spot on the drum stool. It was with this line-up that the band recorded their sophomore LP, Last Splash, earning themselves a support slot on Nirvana's 1993 world tour and scoring a bona fide transatlantic hit with the song 'Cannonball'.
Things were looking bright for Deal's new band, with a prime slot on 1994's Lollapalooza tour and a follow-up to Last Splash in the works, but in 1995 Kelley, who had been struggling with heroin addiction for a number of years, was arrested for possession in 1995 and sent by court order to rehab. The material the band had been working on was eventually released under the name The Amps, but it would be nine years before their next album Title TK was finally released, by which time Wiggs and McPherson had moved on and been replaced by Mando Lopez and Jose Medeles.
Never the most prolific band, its follow-up Mountain Battles finally emerged in 2008, recorded in piecemeal fashion by several producers over the preceding six years, with an EP following a year later. The next time they emerged would be in 2012 with the line-up that recorded Last Splash, playing a series of live shows to celebrate the album's 20th anniversary.
It seems the chemistry between Wiggs, McPherson and the Deal sisters sparked a desire for new material; even back then a new album was being talked up, but as ever with The Breeders it has taken a while to arrive. However, a brand new single 'Wait in the Car' finally found its way to the airwaves at the back end of last year and this week the band are ready to unleash their fifth studio album, All Nerve.
Much like Mountain Battles, the album has been recorded in various studios across the United States, by a list of producers that includes longtime collaborator Steve Albini, Greg Norman, Mike Montgomery and Tom Rastikis. Despite the fragmented approach, All Nerve sounds like a natural successor to Last Splash in all the right ways, with particular highlights including the album's lead-off single and 'Howl at the Summit', which features backing vocals from Courtney Barnett.
You can find the video for 'Wait in the Car' below, beneath that we've picked out five key tracks as a primer for those unfamiliar with the band's back catalogue...
Pretty much the first song the band ever recorded, 'Safari' was written by Deal and Donelley after their initial idea of focusing on dance music was abandoned, although you'd never guess that from the sing itself. A grinding, riff-driven tune with fizzing guitars, lo-fi production and Kim's ethereal vocals, this sets out the band's manifesto nicely.
'When I Was A Painter'
Much of the offbeat humour in the Pixies' music resulted from Deal's contributions to the band and that deadpan wit is evident in this cut from the band's debut: “When I was a painter, I painted you well / Too bad I had to die”. Along with their cover of the Beatles' 'Happiness is a Warm Gun', this is definitely one of Pod's highlights.
If you only know one song by The Breeders, chances are it's this. With its slinky bassline, rollicking drums and huge, infectious chorus, this is the real gem on Last Splash arguably the band's finest moment.
Along with 'Cannonball' and the lilting country vibes offered by 'Drivin' on 9', this is probably the other real standout on their 1993 masterpiece. A reminder of of just how great the Deal sisters can sound when they sing together, this is ideal for long sunny drives.
'Son of Three'
Our final pick is this cut from Title tx, which blends thrashing, angular guitars with blue-eyed melodies to create a sound as polished as The Breeders ever get, but it still fizzes with the band's trademark energy and is still a fixture of their live sets.
All Nerve is availble in hmv stores now, you can also order your copy here in our online store.