If only we could all be as cool as Kim Deal. Black Francis be damned, when I saw The Pixies in Davenport, Iowa in January 1992, the highlight of the show was Deal’s lead vocal on “Gigantic.” I had a “big big love” for Deal right then for sure. I didn’t know it at the time, but Deal had formed The Breeders in 1989 with Slint’s drummer, bassist Josephine Wiggs (Perfect Disaster) and Tanya Donnelly (a former Throwing Muse and future Belly frontperson) and released thier debut album Pod in 1990.
While Donnelly’s tenure was short-lived, the blueprint was in place-- girl group harmonies, muscular sixties power chords (their rendition of The Who’s “So Sad About Us” is still a classic) and thumping bass lines. Throughout The Breeders recordings, a wicked sense of humor and giddiness pervaded through the darkness of their debut Pod (you can hear Deal’s own version of “loud-quiet-loud” that The Pixies preached and Nirvana perfected on “Iris” and I’d forgotten about their amazing cover of The Beatles’ “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”) to their classic sophomore full-length.
Last Splash is stellar end to end with Kim Deal’s unaffected plainspoken Dayton Ohio alto dominating, but the breakthrough cut and MTV buzz bin vibration was “Cannonball” with its musical bass line the through line, vocals that alternated between distorted screaming and sweetly singing, a stagger-stop rhythm part and chainsaw guitar parts suitable for sawing apart kittens.
Short of being as cool as Kim Deal, or at least cloning her, Kim realized that the next best thing would be drafting her twin sister Kelly to join The Breeders, and despite Kelly never having played guitar or sung in a band, she proceeded to do both, at first with an anticipated level of amateurishness and then after a few records and tours, with aplomb, if never with a Hendrix-level of expertise. I’ve never bought a ring tone for my phone yet, but might have to just to purchase “Wait In The Car” so I can hear Kelly’s husky Peppermint Patti “Good Morning” yell for my alarm clock ring tone.
But legendary guitar fretboard gymnastics is not what you want from The Breeders. You want lovely girl-group harmonies, a bleak world view and a sly winking sense of humor. While they have yet to equal the effervescence of Last Splash, the latest record “All Nerve” has some truly rocking moments, leaving behind the hesitancy that seemed to hold back their return “Title TK” and the transitional “Mountain Battles,” the latter being more of an acoustic and meditative affair.
Kim and Kelly just celebrated their 52nd birthday on June 10, believe it or not (Kelly is technically a few minutes older than Kim), but The Breeders won’t be seen driving in the slow lane in a red convertible with their toupees blowing in the wind, channeling a typical mid-life crisis. Instead I’m willing to bet they’ll be rolling like a cannonball down the fast lane and won’t stop for anyone.
The Breeders play at House of Vans Chicago (113 N Elizabeth St. 60607) on Saturday, June 15. Also on the bill are Divino Niño and Palehound, whose new record was just added to CHIRP Radio’s rotation this week. Toast and Jam and CHIRP DJ Mary Nisi will spin records to kick off the night and between bands.
The show is free with RSVP here. If you RSVP, you can line up to get in but are not guaranteed entry. You can enter to win “guaranteed entry” passes via Do312 here or listen this week to CHIRP for giveaways! #houseofvans.