4AD · March 02, 2018
If you’re familiar with Last Splash, the idea of reuniting Kim and Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs and Jim MacPherson is monumental. Their last project together is a 90’s alt-pop delicacy – a muddy masterpiece, equal parts camp and callous, that gave us the roaring anthem ‘Cannonball’ – but more than anything, it’s a tough act to follow. However, The Breeders definitely do not crack under pressure. Their 2018 album All Nerve brings a new sense of maturity to the band’s classic alt-pop sound twenty five years after their breakthrough, and smashes all the expectations set for the band to pieces.
Just because the members of The Breeders are all well into their fifties doesn’t mean they’ve gone soft. Their cool-kid attitude is still there. For those hesitant to pick up a Breeders album in 2018, have no fear: the band’s endearing scrappiness remains, but it has had time to grow into something a bit more polished, more confident. The first track ‘Nervous Mary’ is a great mix of grunginess and experience. The Deal sisters’ droning harmonies, erie riffs and perfectly creepy lyrics are a wonderful introduction to the “new” Breeders. Yet, the second track, and first single off the album, ‘Wait in the Car’ is a flashback to The Breeders we know and love. It seems like the band’s 21st century response to ‘Cannonball’: Booming, tough, and a little weird (we hear Deal meowing about twenty-five seconds in). The lines “Wait in the car, I got business!” bring to mind an image of Kim Deal slamming a car door in slo-mo holding a bat. Or maybe that’s just me…
The Breeders showcase their wonderful ability to balance their past and present sounds on All Nerve. The album has its highs and lows; moments of madness and composure that leave the listener confused but wanting more. This approach sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, however it gives off an aura of fearlessness. The Breeders have already established themselves as artists, hitmakers, and misfits, so why should they have to prove themselves all over again? Tracks like ‘MetaGoth’ and ‘Spacewoman’ show this apathy to expectations. The former is a sinister display of the band’s capacity to sound exactly like Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the latter an emotional ballad that tells the tale of someone so lonely they feel as they are alone in space. The groovy ‘Archangel’s Thunderbird’ is a welcome snap back to reality after the short lull, and is a testament to the band’s sonic flexibility.
This is not the Breeders we are all familiar with, and for some, not The Breeders they want to listen to. Even though some tracks might miss the mark, they are important – the band has grown up, and so has their approach. All Nerve is a beautiful example of a band that hasn’t eroded over time, but instead has evolved and matured by individual experience.