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The Breeders
All Nerve Julian Marszalek , March 2nd, 2018 08:36

Moments of genuine brilliance make the rest of this anticlimactic album even more bitterly disappointing.

When history comes to look back at the musical fashions and movements of the early 21st century, the developments that are likely to stand out more than any other are the reunion and the comeback. And at the forefront of this movement has been Kim Deal, initially with the 2004 surprise reunion of Pixies and then with the long gaps between her successive releases with The Breeders.

For The Breeders’ fifth album, Deal – the band’s sole constant member – has extended the 2012 LSXX reunion of The Last Splash line-up and returned to the studio with sister Kelley, bassist Josephine Wiggs and drummer Jim Macpherson. Given the justifiable high regard that the band’s second album is held in, not to mention the countless disciples and copyists it spawned, it’s no exaggeration to say that expectations are riding high.

Perhaps it’s unfair to place so much weight on the album’s shoulders, but even taken on its own terms, All Nerve fails to meet those expectations. Which is shame, as all the component parts of The Breeders at their best are present and correct: Kim Deal’s cooing vocals, simultaneously childlike and sinister; guitars that mesh and then split into fuzzed rhythms and rudimentary lead breaks; a bass guitar that sounds as if its strings were changed five minutes before the session started; drums that skitter and erupt.

And yet it never really takes off. It seems that ‘Wait In The Car’ – the lead single released at the end of last year, and the kind of quirky guitar pop The Breeders can do so well – was a red herring. As evidenced throughout much of All Nerve, the pace of the material is far slower, the melodies less prevalent, the ideas underwhelming.

Equally deceptive is the frontloading of the album. ‘Nervous Mary’ is all sparse, plucked single notes and half chords that give way to chugging explosions and vocal harmonies. Likewise the title track and the genuinely brilliant ‘MetaGoth’ Stripped to the bone and not so much sung as intoned by Josephine Wiggs, this is one of the creepiest yet compelling compositions The Breeders have ever put their name to.

From there on in, the album goes through a variety of fits and starts before descending into anticlimax. ‘Skinhead #2’ and ‘Blues At The Acropolis’ are inconclusive filler, which on an album that lasts a little over 30 minutes, just isn’t good enough. And unlike their take on The Beatles’ ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’, Amon Duul II’s ‘Archangels Thunderbird’ offers nothing new.

Not to worry. Perhaps it’ll all come together in 2026 with their next release. Here’s hoping.