Saturday, June 17, 2017

Last Splash

The Pixies were dead by 1993.  Their best of disc said as much; it was called Death to the Pixies.  Bassist Kim Deal had formed a side project called The Breeders, and they thundered into alternative world consciousness that year with their infectious hit "Cannonball", from the album Last Splash.  With its intro of squealing feedback and Deal's mic check, there could've hardly been a better announcement that this was no mere lark.  The song was rotated heavily on radio stations adopting the alternative format.  MTV played the heck out of the (Spike Jonze directed) video.

Last Splash was actually the Breeders' second album.  Pod, released in 1990, was expanded from a batch of demos.  The thrashing guitar and sweet sounding melodies were already there.  Throwing Muses' guitarist Tanya Donelly had started the band in 1989 with Kim, but left in '92 to form Belly.  She may have been missed by Last Splash, but Kim's twin sister Kelley stepped in and continued the crunch, even if her skills were lacking (and a drug habit led to lots of legal trouble).  Kelley had been asked to play on Pod, but had other commitments.

"Cannonball" is still a burner, twenty four years after the fact.  It's noise, but crazily rythmic noise.  The rest of Last Splash alternates between industrial screech and more pop friendly tunes like "Divine Hammer", which incredibly played on Top 40 stations at the time.  The atmospheric "Invisible Man" blends the ladies' haunting vocals with strings and keyboard.  "New Year", the album's opener, is a breathless mood setter.  "S.O.S." and "Roi" are sonic assaults.  "Saints" may be the most accessible track, with Kim's near spoken vocals and hook laden guitar work, while also sounding like good ol' garage rock.  "Drivin' on 9", written years earlier, is folky and alt-countryish.  "Flipside" could've been a Go-Gos tune.  This is a fine album, one that works blaring from a convertible on a summer day or in a barely lit room as you drink away your blues.

Note: 1992's Safari EP includes an even slower tempo version of "Do You Love Me Now", which might work better than the later one.

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