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The Breeders Remember Their Last Splash

Thirty years ago, The Breeders graced the world with Last Splash. Thirty years later, people love it more than ever. Although the band was originally formed as a mere side project for Kim Deal, bassist of the Pixies, Last Splash is one of the most “enduring” rock albums ever made. That being said, it is an odd album. Last Splash largely lacks any singular “voice;” the instrumental song “Flipside” features a driving beat and a fast, lively tune. The song varies from others like “Drivin’ on 9,” a track defined by its seemingly personal, poetic lyricism and uncomplicated chorus. The disparate songs are wholly without transition, but all work to showcase just how widely talented these artists are. With fifteen tracks, Last Splash surprisingly has a run time of only thirty nine minutes. Some of its most famous works like “No Aloha,” last only two minutes and eight seconds, while stranger, more experimental songs like “Roi” and “Mad Lucas,” are the only ones to break four minutes. In July, The Breeders announced a special tour with the Last Splash original lineup, twin sisters Kim and Kelley Deal, and Josephine Wiggs and Jim MacPherson (both of whom have left the band at different times for different reasons) playing the album in full to celebrate its thirtieth anniversary.

On the Northeast leg of the US tour, the band was accompanied by opener Screaming Females, who had joined them for several previous shows. Screaming Females are characterized by a commitment to their ‘Jersey basement show’ roots, maintaining a DIY style and a hardcore-adjacent sound, with intense guitar solos and crashing drums and,unsurprisingly, screaming vocals. Marissa Paternoster, the seemingly titular screaming female, has an undeniably powerful stage presence. She sang every syllable from her diaphragm, and often stretched and contorted mouth into odd shapes, baring her teeth or jutting her jaw out. The quality of her singing reflected her effort, varying from gravelly visceral tones to remarkable highs. Within the first ten minutes of their opening set, many of the younger fans in the audience were head banging and bouncing off of one another, while other wiser fans, some wearing t-shirts repping long gone Pixies and Throwing Muses tours, stood content at the back of the crowd (and others glared disapprovingly out of the corner of their eye).

But old and young fans alike screamed themselves hoarse as The Breeders finally took to the stage, all nodding their heads and waving as though they were meeting all of us at our gate at the airport, not about to play their groundbreaking album straight through. Right away, Kim acknowledged that “[the Screaming Females] are always a hard act to follow,” and the young rock band seemed suddenly like a perfect, though bittersweet, choice. Once raging young rockstars in their own right, Kim, Kelly, Jim, and Josephine, now standing in the wide vacuous aftermath of their opener, were reduced to a group of mild-mannered and middle aged individuals. Screaming Females are still tearing through the frantic heyday of their lives, meanwhile The Breeders are touring to remember just those days.

Photo Credit: Eslah Attar/NPR

Although they do fall into the same general category of alternative rock, The Breeders’ style is notably different from that of Screaming Females. For example, Paternoster’s vocals differ greatly from the Deal twins. She goes from screaming to singing in the blink of an eye, and employs the entirety of her impressive range—Kim, for the most part, is relatively subdued in her singing. Many songs on Last Splash sound as though they are simply being spoken over, and the instrumentals must either quietly support this style, or take complete center stage in tracks like “I Just Wanna Get Along,” which repeats the title some ten times in two minutes. On the whole, The Breeders maintain this style of casually iconic, down to their presence on the stage. Never ones for pomp and circumstance, Kim donned a Star Trek t-shirt, and Kelley a buttoned flannel, the other members dressed in just the same relaxed fashion. Behind them, the screen at the back of the stage displayed a variety of images (a fluffy pink hammer, green and red plastic kids’ toys covered in dark liquids) in a similar style to the album art, created by the notable British graphic designer Vaughan Oliver. It all seemed to be a strictly curated sort of beautiful nonsense.

Onstage, Kim, only two or three songs into the set, remarked to the audience, “We’re gonna play them all—even the weird ones.” The beauty of playing an album as beloved as Last Splash all the way through is the anticipation that builds. It’s less suspenseful, obviously, than many concert experiences where the next song may be completely unknowable, but there’s a certain trade off there. To know what’s coming next feels like you’re in the band, a little bit, like you know how this is all going to boil down.The sentiment is best encapsulated by the man standing just behind me who, after every song, told no one in particular, “This next one is great.”

To give even more credit, playing Last Splash all the way through was no easy feat. For one song, Josephine and Jim switched instruments, and throughout the show Kim used a total of three guitars, having to switch almost every song. She used a second microphone throughout to achieve the same audio effects as the original tracks, occasionally getting caught up in the wires trying to switch between the two. The band made it look effortless. Though not the same as Screaming Females, The Breeders reached their own quiet fever pitch, thirty years after the fact, smiling amongst themselves as they played “Cannonball,” the song from which the album derives its title.

Although The Breeders have already made their last splash, the opportunity to remember it with them in real time was not one to pass up. The show was as technically remarkable as it was fun and nostalgic. Kim and Kelley sang of the same rock promoters and shotgun weddings as they always have, and Josephine stood coolly off to the side. In some ways, it seemed like thirty years had hardly even passed.

Rating: INDY


Evelyn Blanchette is a Junior in the College studying English.


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