Sunday, November 15, 2009

Can't Fight The Breeders

I'm getting older, I realize. See, nowadays, I want to live at the Breeders, and visit the Pixies. I realize that this statement might seem silly and crazy, but when I was a youth, I was amped up and wired and on edge and constantly on the verge of freaking out - i.e., my reality was similar to the vibe I get from the Pixies' oeuvre. I used to like to vacation in the Land of the Breeders, a hazy, noisy, pretty place with mountains and pretty harmonies. No less rockin', but a little less spazzoid.

Now that I've mellowed with age, I often feel a certain placidity and calm, and like to occasionally get nuts and bounce off the walls. Unfortunately, other than rounding up some singles 'n' b-sides 'n' stuff, I didn't have a lot of background music for that feeling. The Breeders haven't been the most prolific band of the past 20 years... 4 albums? The enjoyable but less-than-epochal Title TK aside, however, each of them has been downright magical.

There are very few recording acts that just completely confound me. I'd like to think that I'm a pretty well-versed music consumer and creator. I know how certain sounds are made, and I know how to achieve that, and how it all fits together. I may not always be able to speak the language, but I can understand what you're saying to me. However, there are those rarified acts that I just can't fathom how they put together that sequence of sounds and timbres to make the music I'm hearing, and often, the Breeders are one of them. The way the Deal sisters put the parts of a song together is completely confusing to me. Which could be part of the appeal. The best part of it, though, is, much like the Early Day Miners, the wizards behind the curtain are almost completely without pretense.

Maybe it's the Deal sisters' Ohio roots, or the down-to-earth mentality I keep seeing around Boston (Kim's temporary home in her Pixies days), but it seems like a completely unaffected piece of primitive art. To assume that the Deals are some kind of savants is doing them a major disservice, though - don't underestimate these women. They know their field, to be sure. But part of the reason that everyone loves them (in the same way people love their Dayton neighbor, Bob Pollard), is that they seem like people you could know, regular people, who have this other side to them that creates this magical atmosphere. Maybe it's her deadpan Midwest accent, but Kim Deal has always reminded me of someone who could have been my babysitter when I was a kid. A little older than me, waaay cooler, but still wouldn't mind eating cereal and watching cartoons. The key, however, is that this side of the band is never distinct from the lush, jagged, hauntingly crushing music that they can whip up like a fever dream. It's not distinct, and in fact the music would be weaker if that side of the personality wasn't visible through the haze.

The Breeders, though, like myself, have mellowed with age. Their 2009 self-released EP, Fate To Fatal, is a wonderful follow-up to the stellar Mountain Battles. There are lots of stories about these people, including nasty band break-ups, drug addcitions, arrests, bad feelings, back-biting - but all that really, truly feels in the past. Like Mountain Battles, there's a sort of, err, "elder statesmen" vibe to this, that says to me "been there, done that, who cares? let's just kick back a little..." It's not that the songs are lacking anything, but without the constant threat of everything suddenly falling apart, the four songs here are allowed to breathe a little bit. There was a day when any new music from the Breeders was met with baited breath, simply due to the scarcity and the event surrounding it all. Despite the fact that it's now a different era, the fanbase is still there, and it's actually nice to hear music like this without the crushing weight of anticipation. It seems like it's nice to the band, too, becuase this feels a lot more alive and organic than most of the other records I've listened to this year. Add it to the list!

[Bonus points to any reader who can tell me why I found the title of this post so damn funny when I wrote it.]

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