The Breeders are considered 90’s indie-rock royalty, and they have just returned once again to release their first single in almost a decade and play a hotly anticipated sold-out show at the relatively cozy Bowery Ballroom here in the Big Apple. After a week in which I caught The Raincoats, Bikini Kill, Pacific Ocean, and Kicking Giant reunite, this was sure to be a killer cap to a spell of catching the female-powered rock revival fever. I’ve seen my fellow Dayton, Ohio natives Kim and Kelley Deal many times in the past, the first time opening for Nirvana and The Melvins in Denver in 1993, as well as an epic three times in the NYC area on their last tour, but this was sure to be special as the famed Last Splash lineup is now a full-on band again, and I am excited for all that is in store for these rock gods I can pray to.
The Breeders were originally formed as a side project for bassist and vocalist Kim Deal in-between albums with the already gigantically successful first wave alt/indie post-punk band The Pixies. Much like her harmony and guitar partner Tanya Donelly was with her other band Throwing Muses, they were both escaping over-bearing band leaders and finding out what it meant to be free to create their own style of raw, unhindered rock, and this unique take on the early riot grrrl sound could be clearly heard on their 1990 debut album Pod. After a couple years, Kim had had it with frontman Frank Black’s obsessive control-freak ways and left the band in 1992 to pursue The Breeders full time. This time Kim asked her identical twin-sister Kelley to join up as third guitarist, despite her barely knowing how to play. They had apparently fantasized about being in a band together since being kids, and The Breeders was actually they name they gave their short-lived teen folk band, and Kim had even wanted Kelley to be on Pod, but she couldn’t get time off her job at the time. After they released the Safari EP in ’92, Donelly went on to form her own band Belly, and Kelley became lead guitarist and harmony.
They released their mega-successful LP Last Splash in 1993, and the sisters lapped up all the debauchery that is afforded to big time rock stars, that is, until Kelley was busted for drugs and had to cop to, and recover from, being a long-time heroin addict. In the meantime, Kim took what would have been material for their follow-up and released it as a solo-ish side project called The Amps to much praise, as Kelley eventually formed her own group called The Kelley Deal 6000. At the end of the 90’s, the sisters started trying to get back to work, eventually resulting in 2001’s Title TK, but it took several more years for them to produce their next LP, 2008’s Mountain Battles. A couple years back they got the Last Splash line-up back together for an anniversary of their biggest album’s release and toured it in its entirety, catching onto the whole classic rock album tour craze that was sweeping through the rock world, much like Kim had been doing periodically with her other old band The Pixies for many years before. The tour proved to be such a fun and fertile catalyst that they all decided to get back to the studio together and produce another album, and they just released the first fruit of their fresh labors, the awesome-tastic single “Wait in the Car.”
Opening the show was fellow Buckeye natives punk band Vacation from Cincinnati, who I have had the pleasure to rock out to a couple times in the past as part various happenings thrown by their awesome label Don Giovanni. They’ve been jamming their own fuzzy style of garage-punk for several years now, so they certainly have their sonic shocker style down. These guys have a bit of trippy surf-psychedelia loaded into a classic DC punk sound which definitely reminds me of the best parts of my high school days kicking it out to 80’s skater punk bands like Seven Seconds and Minor Threat, with a bit of 90’s punk catchiness thrown in for good measure. They just released a stellar EP called Cooking and are certainly ready to rock your world, but only if you’re worthy!
So, The Breeders have returned in prime form, and The Last Splash lineup were here to wet your whistle with some classics. The Deal twins were in supreme shape, Kim looked healthier than I had ever seen her, marking it down as the first time I haven’t seen her drinking during the set, although she did have a box of Kleenex and what looked to be a tea, so perhaps she was fighting back a cold, even though she showed no signs of a cracking voice or a dripping nose. Fellow Dayton-ite Jim Macpherson was perfect as always on drums, and always seems to beam with good-natured spirits. Josephine Wiggs continues to be the awesomely firm stone-face of the group, always keeping the songs propelling solidly regardless of whomever may mess up, and as I had found out on their last tour, she actually lives nearby me in Brooklyn. Even violinist Carrie Bradley, who had appeared on the band’s first couple albums, flew out just to play on “Driving On 9,” which despite its present iconic status, is actually a cover of a song by Ed’s Redeeming Qualities, whom Carrie had also played with back in the 80’s.
They did play all of Last Splash strewn around the setlist, as well hitting tracks from all their other albums as well, but they did pull out a surprise Amon Düül II cover of “Archangels Thunderbird,” delighted the whole room with a couple Amps songs, which I had only caught them doing once before, and shocked the crowd by playing one of Kim’s Pixies tracks “Gigantic,” something which to my knowledge the Breeders had never done live. It was awe-inspiring moments like that which made this one of my favorite shows of the year, and perhaps one of my favorites in my entire Breeders fan-boy history.
Article: Dean Keim