1993 – 4AD/ Elektra
Alternative/ Rock/ Grunge
Kim Deal of Pixies fame and her twin sister Kelly form their own grungy girl group, well that sounds like it’s going to be a great premise for a record. Luckily I was not disappointed by Last Splash as this bundle of nineties alternative cred just deliver smashing tune after smashing tune.
Kicking off with the double hits of New Year and Cannonball the listener is instantly gratified, given a tasty mixture of slowed down punk guitar riffs, apathetically crooned vocals and solid grunge drumming. I mean, neither Deal is a great singer, and their guitar playing abilities are dubious, but the charm here is not musicianship, but rather the uncaring lack of it. It just doesn’t matter that these tunes have no real force behind them, or that the vocals struggle for key: what does matter is the fact that one can actually hear the band rocking out.
Each white noise guitar crunch and each crash symbol smash contain an obvious sense of fun which floats through the music and right into the listener’s brain causing them to have a whole lot of fun too. I mean, usually the kind of art-school pretension (and there’s certainly no lack of it) heard on this record is the kind of thing that would annoy me, but it seems that with Last Splash the careful calculation of drone and feedback take a backseat to the satisfaction of actually playing rock and roll. The riffs, when they appear, are so solidly rock and the drums beat and bass always manage to maintain a throbbing pulse of pure rock and roll power that holds back all the churning nonsense of noise. I mean, the trashy thrash of Flipside and the almost sing-along catchniness of No Aloha are just so undeniably fun that it detracts from most of apathy.
This being said, Deal’s (either of them) vocals are a downside on this album. I Just Wanna Get Along rocks out incredibly hard with it’s growling guitars and sludgy bass lines, but when it comes to the vocals it suddenly drops down to almost boring. Bad singing I can deal with, but trying to hide bad singing by just being quiet is a good way to draw attention to it, and unfortunately this happens in a few too many places on this record.
All things considered, however, the vocals don’t tend to detract that often, and most of the time it’s easy enough to just ignore them and focus on the music, which is where the real charm of this album is. Musically Last Splash is just so imperfect as to make it a great achievement. The way in which the band eschew the ideas of pop production for the world’s most intelligent garage sound is brilliant, and the way in which they meld the melodies your grandmother might tap her toes to with the feedback of what you grandmother refuses to believe is music is a sheer delight. At times (see Mad Lucas and Hag), however, their rejection of accepted techniques in favour of rambling sound does drag a bit and ruin the momentum the thing. I mean, just as I start table drumming along to something like S.O.S everything cuts down and I’m given something designed to ‘make me think’. What’s worse is the fact that once I’m done thinking, it always turns out that there really wasn’t all that much in it anyway.
All in all, however, I’ve got to say that The Breeders’ Last Splash is definitely a triumph of a record despite it’s moments of ill-planning. Most of it is wonderfully exciting and deliciously grungy, and the moments when it really really rocks out are just so brilliant as to make for all of the moments when it falls flat.
And here is the great rocking track Flipside.
- Breeders still making a splash (miamiherald.com)
- I Was So Excited to See the Breeders; I Could Hardly Hear the Breeders (lineout.thestranger.com)
- Why The Breeders’ Last Splash still matters; Spiritualized is as strong as music gets (indyweek.com)
- The Breeders expand tour, playing 2 nights at Webster Hall (brooklynvegan.com)
- 10 nineties bands that deserve a second chance (salon.com)