It seems that every six years the Breeders re-emerge with an album that sounds like it was written and recorded in an afternoon. That sounds like a flippant criticism, but it’s actually one of the things that makes records like The Last Splash so special. They are loose, frill-free and unconventional – like rock music played by ingénues who are not quite sure how it’s supposed to work, but have some ideas anyway.
This looseness can translate into some ramshackle live performances – like they’d all just met that afternoon. But the Deal twins have the warmth, wit, charisma and complete lack of airs and graces to allow them to get away with pretty much anything; and when they fire, the Breeders are just about as good as live rock music gets.
As an advertisement for the new LP (which I haven’t heard yet), tonight’s show was about as effective as flogging booze by using pictures of cirrhotic livers. They opened with two new songs which seemed like half-formed sketches for half-baked ideas. Wheeling out the old stuff (not much from Title TK) showed just how good this band really is. “Cannonball” (obviously), “Iris”, “I Just Want To Get Along” and “Cro-Aloha” were just some of many highlights. Each time they played a new tune, though, everything came back down to earth with a crashing thud.
Despite the flaws, time raced by and their 40 minute set seemed to be over in twenty. Then a weird thing happened. Kim said “we’ll be back in a bit”, and so, rather than hollering for an encore, the (sell-out) crowd just waited politely and patiently for her to be as good as her word. It wasn’t indifference, but almost an unspoken band-crowd agreement about the ridiculousness of the set-cheer-encore tradition. Then another weird thing happened. Sandwiching “Fortunately Gone”, they played another two new tunes, both of which were excellent (can’t tell you what they were called – my team of researchers had the night off). The first, in particular, showed off the beautiful, bruised velvet harmonies that Kim and Kelley do so well when they put a mind to it. Then they were off again – this time for good.
A strange one then. It felt a little flimsy at times, and yet had moments of brilliance; and heart and soul by the bucket-load. For all my criticisms, I enjoyed it much, much more than the slick, machine-like precision that characterized the Pixies’ Alexandra Palace gig a couple or so years back.