The Upshot: What is “alternative rock” anyway? Amid all the joy and pain, loud and silent, on this reunion record, you will hear masters of a genre they helped give birth to—yes, The Breeders are back.
BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS
I’ve been waiting for this record, waiting a long time. All Nerve, the latest from the 1990s alternative rock giants—and Kim Deal side project from The Pixies—gets my preemptive vote for Record of the Year. I’ll just get that out of the way.
Where have the guitars gone from the music supposedly alternative these days? What is alternative? If you don’t know for sure, put on All Nerve (mine being on orange vinyl) and listen to the quiet, the empty spaces between the songs, and the explosion of guitar, drums and bass that fill the grooves and you will hear it, all the joy and pain, loud and silent, you will hear masters of a genre they helped give birth to; The Breeders are back. God loves us.
“Nervous Mary” starts like a Lou Reed fever dream lullaby, climbing to the nervous breakdown. This is what The Breeders do best; sneak up on you with cotton soft feet, going for throat and winning every fucking time. “Wait in the Car” shows that, though years have passed, the 90s are always with them; Nirvana riffs, Patti Smith snarl and strut. Beauty and sadness are there in “All Nerve” slightly open, imperfectly glorious.
“Walking with a Killer,” a song that began life as a Kim Deal solo single, is fully formed here. Josephine Wiggs’ subtle heartbeat, always there, thumping away at the line, magically off kilter, Jim Macpherson drum work never flashy but always perfect for the song he’s playing; a truly underrated drummer that desires praise.
“Archangel’s Thunderbird” is where it all comes together, the track that proves The Breeders are one of the best bands to come out of the ‘90s. Rock steady drums, garage rock flashes from Kelley Deal’s guitar (she shines throughout All Nerve: sloppy, ramshackle, a mess, perfect.)
“Dawn, Making an Effort” plays like a slow burn sequel to Last Splash’s “Driving on 9,” atmospheric with an ear to the grand, the beautiful strangeness that sometimes lives and breathes in a Breeders song.
All Nerve isn’t perfect, but sweet Lord, it’s close.
Kim and crew have done it again; stripped to the bone, showing the world who they are: a band that remembers what it was like for a band to rock. Thank you for not putting away the amplifiers.
DOWNLOAD: “Archangel’s Thunderbird,” “Nervous Mary,” “Dawn, Making An Effort”