The Breeders Launch LSXX Anniversary Tour in Brooklyn, Give ‘Last Splash’ a Glorious Spin
Contrary to what Fred Armisen would have us believe, the '90s aren't alive and thriving in Portland. They're married with kids and a mortgage and a community-supported-agriculture membership in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Where better, then, for the Breeders to officially launch their LSXX Tour -- celebrating the 20th anniversary of their classic 'Last Splash' album -- than at the Bell House, an aging-hipster hang par excellence nestled just west of said neighborhood, in slightly grungy Gowanus?
And speaking of slightly grungy -- no such qualifiers were needed Friday night (March 29), as Breeders leaders Kim and Kelley Deal, backed by 'Last Splash'-era mates Josephine Wiggs (bass), Jim Macpherson (drums) and Carrie Bradley (violin), recalled everything that was great about that G-word rock sub-genre whose name we're not supposed to say.
The main set consisted of a top-down run-through of 'Last Splash,' and like time-traveling emissaries from Alternative Nation, the group scraped, scratched and thundered its way through 45 minutes of slow-fast, quiet-loud, pretty-ugly guitar jams. It was all right there in opener 'New Year,' which found singer and guitarist Kim visibly chipper, even ecstatic, flashing big smiles at her twin sis and the rest of the gang. That mood carried over into the audience, which isn't surprising, given how quickly the show sold out.
Fans greeted the opening bass notes of the second tune, 'Cannonball,' the Breeders' biggest hit, with wild appreciation. Much like that other, better-known contender for Best '90s Alt-Rock Anthem, the one named for a deodorant ad, 'Cannonball' is glorious for its meaninglessness, a testament to the sloppy fun that might be had "in the shade." With the lights out, in other words, it's less dangerous, and throughout the Bell House performance, the Deal sisters were keen on entertaining us -- and themselves.
The Breeders come from an era when cool underground rock bands could be Led Zeppelin, the Beatles and Black Flag all at once, and on a standout 'Roi,' they alternated between artiness and aggression, throwing Bradley's sawing violin and Macpherson's Minimoog squiggles against a wall of guitar feedback. At one point, Kim burst out laughing, either because someone screwed up, or because she's still amazed by the anything-goes spirit of it all.
"Kelley's gonna sing the blues," Kim said later, prefacing 'I Just Wanna Get Along.' Like 'Divine Hammer,' which came two songs later, it exemplifies the pop-punk side of the Breeders. They probably could have written nothing but songs like this, but the world already had the Muffs, so they wisely mixed things up with tunes like 'S.O.S.' -- a surfy, metallic rager reminiscent of Kim's other band, the Pixies -- and the plucky pop-country number 'Drivin' on 9.'
The post-'Splash' encore featured songs from the Breeders' 1990 debut, 'Pod,' and 1992 EP 'Safari,' whose 'Don't Call Home' marked the finale. "Miles away, but you can't call home," Kim sang, employing that flat, droll tone she often uses to offset the agitation in the music swirling around her. It's a song about a past you can never really go back to, and with its now-dated references to payphones, it's the logical stopping point for any Breeders show. The '90s are no longer raging, but on certain nights, they'll get a sitter, treat themselves to a few Six Points and push it all the way to 11:30.