Re-unions and reformations tend to be a troubling business. After all, music looks inherently forwards, glances impatiently to the future – it’s simply not built to re-capture the quicksilver energy of the past.
The Breeders, though, were always a little different. A chaotic fusion of disparate but devoutly intelligent individuals, the best of their work – ‘Pod’ and ‘Last Splash’ especially – were driven by a devil-may-care attitude that most of their self-effacing peers lacked.
It’s this spirit that drives new album ‘All Nerve’, a record that somehow manages to emulate the past while thoroughly taking the piss out of it. It’s a helter-skelter ride through alt-rock sonic lexicon, breaking the rules just as soon as they remember them.
Little is wasted. Opening salvo ‘Nervous Mary’ and ‘Wait In The Car’ are done and dusted within five minutes, a kind of brutalist guitar minimalist that puts the Ramones’ discography to shame.
‘MetaGoth’ is all rumbling bass and treble-saturated guitars, The Breeders applying an intense sense of focus to their sound. ‘Howl At The Summit’ falls apart at the seams, a reminder that no one is perfect, no matter how potent the memories.
On the rare occasions the band allow their songwriting to tumble beyond these boundaries it’s clear they relish unexplored spaces. ‘Walking With The Killer’ betrays a continual paranoia, while ‘Dawn: Making An Effort’ warns of “haunted throats” while the coming day is “running us down”.
‘Blues At The Acropolis’ is a daring, gleeful finale, the production so raw, so immediate that they could almost be there in the room with you. From the title down it approaches history in a ruthlessly non-nostalgic way, with Kim Deal biting: “Don’t take a piss where heroes once bled out…”
Not everything on ‘All Nerve’ works. But then, perfection was never the aim for Breeders; instead, they’ve provided something vital, visceral, completely modern. In never once looking back they’ve re-captured the incessant energy that drove ‘Last Splash’, and given us something to take its place.
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