(4AD, out Fri 2 Mar 2018)
“I’ve got business,” growls Kim Deal over the choppy guitar of Wait In The Car and she’s not joking. It would’ve been the easy option to bat off the idea of another Breeders reformation and continue with the limitless cash-cow of The Pixies juggernaut. Yet, here we have the iconic indie four-piece from Dayton, Ohio back with their first album in ten years and sporting the classic line-up – Kim on guitar/vocals, twin sister Kelley (guitar/vocals), Josephine Wiggs (bass) and Jim MacPherson (drums). Whatever the reason for the return, the payoff is huge.
The urgent, pounding album opener Nervous Mary snarls intent as they blitz through previous singles Wait In the Car and bolshie title track All Nerve in under seven minutes. The darkly brooding MetaGoth briefly throttles back on that blistering opening and Spacewoman dangles a wondrously lilting verse before giving way to its crashing, muscular chorus.
Hitting the midpoint of the album shows just how fully formed these songs are, throwing off the shackles of expectation with the sweet and malevolent Walking With The Killer, with MacPherson’s offbeat rhythm stifling the song’s twisted cry for help.
All the ingredients are here, Kim and Kelley’s playful back and forth vocals, guitars intertwining, Wiggs’ chunky bass. Howl At The Summit buzzes and soars, highlighting a live feel to proceedings (the album was recorded in three chunks with a team of producers including long time collaborator Steve Albini) which gives the songs plenty of room for manoeuvre. The punchy pop of Archangel’s Thunderbird could’ve been written in ’92 as a companion piece to the classic Last Splash track Cannonball yet never feels like a rehash. This is the sound of a band comfortable with its past, wearing its bruises like a sonic battle standard.
Album standout Dawn: Making An Effort paints a lush, kaleidoscopic landscape, Kim’s vocal floating and crackling on top of delay drenched guitar and hissing drums. It’s pure redemption. As if to underline that concept, Skinhead #2 bashes out a gargantuan drum line building to shouts of “we are free!” before we bear sacrifice and rebirth at the metaphorical summit of exultant closing track Blues At The Acropolis.
All Nerve is the culmination of a quiet, confident reimagining of The Breeders. The acknowledgement that what came before can give rise to new beginnings, not just homage to the past.