Started as a side project spin-off from both the Pixies and the Throwing Muses, The Breeders' first album Pod snuck out without too much fanfare. After Pixies-riffers Nirvana exploded the Alternative music scene, the groundswell built - and thanks to a string of great singles, second album Last Splash hit the mainstream. Part time Pixie Kim Deal became a full-time Breeder and with Tanya Donnely's departure she was now clearly in charge. Progress slowed. With the Breeders now becoming a day job, another side project was needed to get things going and the GBV-influenced Amps hit the spot.
With The Amps essentially re-branding back to the Breeders, Title TK marked a return in 2002 with some critical accclain (certainly from me), but as the pace dropped back to a crawl album four didn't seem likely. With absence making the heart grow fonder, the extended hiatus that The Breeders have found themselves on has done less to little to lower expectations from the band and with the Pixies barnstorming reunion still fresh in the mind those expectations must seem astronomical, so it was with some surprise that the band's website announced new material late last year.
So what's the result? Another Breeders album. Probably not their best, perhaps not their worst - but it's a welcome return, with many individual highlights. While Mountain Battles may be a title more suitable for a Led Zeppelin comeback, it highlights a notable theme through the record and opener Overglazed sets the bar high with a slow building call-to-arms that is crying out for a Viking clad video to accompany it. Night of Joy is a beautiful masterpiece, building a complex mood with little other than a subtle chord progression and reapeating, simple lyrics ....delivered in Deal's unique style. We're Gonna Rise continues both the evocative mood and the theme ("Light hits my shield"), followed by a track that actually seems to be sung in Orc - although title German Lessons might suggest otherwise. Here unfortunately we hit one of my all time pet hates - foreign language singing (David Gedge, you know who you are).
In this case the second language strangely illustrates the magic formula that Kim Deal seems to find when she hits the mark. The minimal lyrics of Night of Joy convey all their emotion through her singing style, adding weight to the words through tone and repetition - but when singing in a second language, not of that emotion comes across, leaving nothing but slightly cold words. Don't even get me started on 'epic' Spanish language track Regalame Esta Noche.
Re-visiting something you clearly get a bit sick of is a thankless task, and with the album never really hitting the highs of those few opening tracks again it could be argued that The Breeders have never in fact had a bonifide classic. As their raft of great EP's, covers, b-sides and alternate versions stand testament, The Breeders were always most successful as a singles band and in many ways, nothing has chnaged. There's no Cannonball or Safari here, but Overglazed leads the charge into a string of great tracks, while Night of Joy is as good as anything they have done.