Kelley Deal rejoins her sister Kim of The Pixies in The Breeders, and goes around the world on Mountain Battles. While certainly more varied in style than 2002’s Title TK, which had essentially been a Kim Deal solo-project, Battles lacks the irreverent fun that had made The Breeders such a well-loved hit in the early nineties. In fact, the width, including a song in German, one in Spanish, and one titled, “Istanbul”, belies a lack of depth. There is some overall quality when they have some, but there are also a few high-tech tracks that are downright useless.
Originally begun as a side-project by Kim Deal and Throwing Muses’ Tanya Donnelly back in 1990, Kelley joined The Breeders when Donnelly left to form Belly two years later. Opening up for Nirvana on their European tour followed that, The Pixies finally breaking up the following year, and the huge success of Last Splash and “Cannonball”. The Breeders might have been the second wave of popular alternative music in the nineties, but Kelley Deal was caught in a drug bust in 1995, putting the band on hold. After recording as The Amps, Kim Deal revived The Breeders moniker for live shows, with new personnel, appeared on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, and released Title TK. That record’s poor sales led to the band being included in a large ‘dropping of artists’ by Warner Bros. Records, and Deal returned home to 4AD. The Pixies reunited at Coachella in 2004, leading to an extended reunion tour, and Kelley Deal finally rejoined her sister two years later for The Breeders – the two can even be seen writing and recording work for Mountain Battles in The Pixies’ reunion tour documentary, loudQUIETloud.
That long history has given Battles a wide spectrum of influences to draw upon, and that can be seen in the variety amongst the tracks. Opener “Overglazed” is a high, even choral guitar-tech, while the following “Bang On” goes reverbed and drum machine. However, the drum machine beat is relatively lame, and the record gets weak whenever it gets to slow and techno: the small and haunting “Spark” in the middle is too stop-start and ‘weird for the sake of weird’, while the slow reverb-tech of the eponymous finisher is just uninteresting.
The Breeders are far better when they have more fun, and are less high-tech. The relaxed alt-country of “We’re Gonna Rise” and lo-fi distorted garage-rock of “Here No More” are reminiscent of Last Splash. The jangly “German Studies” (actually sung in German) has some catch to its beat, while “It’s the Love” is fun, with a great guitar solo. Battles goes back even farther with the quiet and nice “Night of Joy”, and especially with the Spanish-in-style-and-tongue “Regalame Esta Noche”.
After blowing people away with their initial reunion, many felt The Pixies hung around a little too long, considering that they released no new material (unlike, for instance, the actually-superior Dinosaur Jr. reunion – QRO live review). Since then, main Pixies songwriter Black Francis has released an LP, Bluefinger (QRO review), and an EP, Svn Fngrs (QRO review), but Deal keeps pace in neither quantity nor quality. While certainly an improvement on Title TK, there is no Splash after the Last.