The Breeders - All Nerve

by Kevin Orton Rating:8 Release Date:2018-03-02
The Breeders - All Nerve
The Breeders - All Nerve

Who knows if it was coincidence or not but noticed Kim Deal left the reunited Pixies shortly after Frank Black referred to her as the band’s “mascot”. If that was a contributing factor, who can blame her? Regardless of the reasons for her departure, one thing is clear: Kim Deal’s influence on the Pixies is, ‘Gigantic’. In terms of a live stage presence, all she needs to do is stand there to command attention. And if you ask me, the Breeders’ slim output really stands the test of time.

It’s been 10 years since we’ve heard from this tempestuous band but All Nerve is a welcome, if all too brief return. The album’s opener begins in somber, Gothic mode reminiscent of Tanya Donnelly’s Belly. But soon kicks into full band mode, armed with suitably deranged lyrics about the inescapable joys of paranoia. ‘Wait In the Car’ greets you with, “Good Morning!” The ensuing song, a reminder of how instrumental Deal was to the Pixies influential sound.

The first two songs clock in at a mere two plus minutes. Tasty aperitifs to main course fare like the title track. “I won’t stop, I will burn you down. I’m all nerve,” Deal declares. Close on the heels we have the doomy, ‘Metagoth’. Then, things slow down a bit with, ‘Spacewoman’. A ballad with the sort of dynamics the Pixies are famous for. Deal reigning things in to burn close before hammering away in ramshackle glory. 

On ‘Walking With A Killer’, things get darker, yet perversely more melodic. “I know it was my time to die,” Deal sings. Next up, the off kilter ‘Howl At The Summit’ keeps things teetering on a knife’s edge. Flirting with chaos to reach out, as oppose to overwhelm.

Despite its intruiging title, ‘Archangel Thunderbird’ is the album’s least cohesive moment. Obtuse lyrics tossed to the mercy of a disjointed melody as the band lurches about, uncertain where things are headed. However, without all this messy dissonance, ‘Dawn: Making An Effort’ might lack it’s gorgeous, eye in the storm impact. A true standout. More slow-core but up there with classics like, ‘Cannonball’. Vocally, Deal at her most haunting.   

‘Skinhead #2’ begins with, “I need spit to crush these beetles on my lips.” A performance so Seattle grunge it’s like 1993 all over again. Yet, before you know it, this lush, vital return draws to an all too sudden close with, ‘Blues At The Acropolis’. “Don’t take a piss where heroes once bled out,” Deal snarls. It a rousing effort but not the kind of thing that’s meant to put a button on the proceedings. There’s a nagging feeling of not only wanting more but of being vaguely unsatisfied. Clocking in at a scant 34 minutes, one can’t say All Nerve overstays its welcome. On the contrary, it feels more like it’s leaving the party too early. While there’s something to be said for less is more, an additional track might make for an even more gratifying listen. Still, there’s little to quibble about. The Breeders are back. And if they’re a little rough around the edges, who’d want them any other way?

Here’s hoping it won’t take another 10 years for them to make more racket.

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