Secret Meeting score: 75
by Philip Moss
Music moves in cycles. It always has. And there’s something extremely satisfying about this cycle meeting a natural conclusion on The Breeders’ fifth record, All Nerve. A record that sees the quartet that made 1993’s truly iconic, platinum selling album, Last Splash (which included the smash MTV 2 hit, Canonball), make a return.
Since Last Splash’s 20th anniversary in 2013, the band have been playing shows sporadically while secretly working on new material in their hometown of Dayton, Ohio (not to be confused with nearby Dayton, Kentucky where the record was mostly recorded). After almost five months since the majestic, angular lead single, Wait In The Car was posted on You Tube, fans have been patiently waiting for this full length to drop and to see where the Deal sisters – and a Breeders album – would fit into 2018.
It’s not just the original four piece that have collaborated again on the record either. Engineer of Pod, Steve Albini (Nirvana, Bonnie Prince Billy, Iggy & The Stooges), is also back on board for a couple of tracks. Not least the standout title track – with its brilliant double tracking of Kim and Kelley’s vocals, and crunching Telecaster driven chorus. ‘I wanna see you, especially you – you don’t know know how much I miss you’ – a sentiment one feels will be reciprocated by Breeders’ fans too because this is a fine record by anyone’s standards, not least a group who haven’t put an LP out for over a decade.
Following the cover of Happiness is a Warm Gun on their debut, The Breeders again display the long-lasting influence they’ve taken from The Beatles as the sweeping chords of Howl at the Summit are gloriously evocative of Strawberry Fields Forever. But this is not a band that only looks backwards for influence. They show they’ve also got their fingers on the pulse in regards to the contemporary guitar music scene – drawing on Australian indie sensation, Courtney Barnett to make a guest appearance, providing backing vocals on the song’s ear worm chorus.
However, the understated highlight is the record’s centrepiece. Walking With The Killer – a teen narrative that teeters on the edge of macabre – was first released by Kim Deal as part of a ‘solo 7” series’ in 2012 (see below for the original version) and takes us back to the cornfields of her Ohio youth. She told the NME in 2015, ‘It stemmed from being in high school and walking from my house to the store’. Over shuffling drums and a stark bass loop, Deal – with her voice pushed right up to the front of the mix, delivers a beautifully simple melody as she looks to hitch a ride to escape her ambiguously dangerous ‘dark star’.
All Nerve has been a long time in the making. But this is mature, punchy pop music that proves there is a Deal sisters’ shaped hole in the contemporary, alternative music scene, and they still have more than enough to please old fans and new to boot.