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THE BREEDERS All Nerve gets 7.5/10


The Breeders
All Nerve
4AD/Remote Control


Returning with the line-up that recorded the indie classic Last Splash, The Breeders deliver their fifth full-length LP after a 10-year hiatus. The good news is that the new album sounds a lot like old Breeders, and is more than ably laid down by master producer Steve Albini. A cool 90s indie kid might say of the album in a backhanded way, “it doesn’t suck” or maybe even “it’s okay” but this grown-up indie kid would even go so far as to say it’s “pretty good”.

The Breeders have come a long way since beginning as a side project of Kim Deal and Tanya Donnelly (Throwing Muses and Belly) after the Pixies’ Doolittle album, releasing Pod to critical acclaim in 1990. The songs were a dour but fascinating bunch, with Steve Albini’s production keeping the mood dense and grey. The Pixies broke up after two more albums, freeing Deal to perform her own songs in the Breeders, plus one album as The Amps. Hit song Cannonball from Last Splash (1993) vaulted the band to indie superstardom at the time, but The Breeders’ releases have been patchy since then owing to revolving line-ups and personal issues (including bouts with rehab for Kim as well as her identical twin sister, Kelly, who returns here on guitar and vocals having cleaned up long ago).

Even though it’s been 10 years since Mountain Songs (or perhaps because of it), the collection of songs here sound fresh, tight and infused with a nerve-ous energy that belies the band members’ 30-something years in the business. The Albini recording goes back to the stripped-down sounds of Pod, but with clarity this time and without the murk. His recordings tend to be on the unadorned side, catering instead for the educated listener that doesn’t need a lot of extra stuff added. The result is a great-sounding record, suiting the sparse, muscular compositions here well.

All Nerve continues to showcase Kim Deal’s knack for edgy abstract poetry, catchy hooks, stripped back yet interesting song structures and frequently rousing choruses. On the more poppy side of the spectrum, Nervous Mary opens with a simple voice and guitar before kicking in and opening up to a chorus that is catchy in Kim’s signature melodic style. Single Wait In The Car cranks up the energy with a stop-and-start structure with some nice riffing and solid drumming from Jim McPherson, who thwacks his drums and cymbals with conviction throughout the album.

There are quite a few slower-paced numbers such as standout Spacewoman, Walking With A Killer and the title track, perhaps suggesting a mature desire to slow things down a bit. Howl at the Summit and Dawn: Making An Effort start slowly as well but eventually swell and gather momentum for some powerful, epic finishes.

Josephine Wiggs’ skeletal, metallic bass lines underpin the structure of the songs and are a vital part of The Breeders’ sound, with many moments where you can hear only the bass grinding away to keep the song going. She contributes two tracks, MetaGoth (delivered with appropriately gothic vocals) and Skinhead #2 and they are stylistically in step with the rest of the album. The same can’t be said so much for a cover of Amon Duul II’s Archangel’s Thunderbird that comes straight from the garage with a loose-fitting vocal over the top.

All Nerve will be a welcome treat for fans of Kim Deal and classic indie rock sounds. The Breeders aren’t breaking new ground here, but the true indie style has always been to come up with interesting compositions and arrangements from track to track within the form, without necessarily jumping the rails entirely. The Breeders pull that off for All Nerve, with a strong collection of melodic tunes to sing along and rock out to. “Pretty good,” indeed.


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