It’s not as nebulous as their last album – and it doesn’t deliver the melodic thrills of Last Splash – but Mountain Battles has personality, spirit, warmth and tenderness in abundance.
It’s six years since the last Breeders album, Title TK; 15 since their commercial high-point Last Splash; and a barely-believable 18 since Pod, the debut that launched Kim Deal free from the Pixies mothership. And in that time, we’ve watched grunge and Britpop emerge and perish; been introduced to Eminem, Underworld, The Strokes, N.E.R.D, Arctic Monkeys and Amy; even been graced by the brief reformation of Kim’s old band.
But anyone expecting Mountain Battles to reflect these developments hasn’t been doing their homework: the Land of Deal is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
The Breeders may have flirted with the charts (most notably when ‘Cannonball’ took its place alongside ‘Sabotage’ and ‘Devil’s Haircut’ as a mid-90s indie disco staple), but on approaching any record from this band, it’s probably best that you don’t go looking for hits. Why not instead see it as an opportunity to intrude on an ongoing conversation between a couple of old friends? Or, more accurately, that most mysterious of units: a pair of sisters.
As always, Kelley and Kim’s is a hermetically sealed world – with communication conducted in a unique dialect of garage rock, Tex-Mex country and bubblegum pop – and a song like ‘Here No More’ is so effortlessly intimate, you can almost hear the personal history flowing beneath the surface. But once you’ve attuned your ear to their frequency, ‘German Studies’, ‘Regalame Esta Noche’ and the single ‘We’re Gonna Rise’ all emerge as rich (if slightly sunburned) additions to the band’s impressive canon.
It’s not as nebulous as their last album, and it doesn’t deliver the melodic thrills of Last Splash, but Mountain Battles has personality, spirit, warmth and tenderness in abundance. More importantly, as a reminder of Kim Deal’s lasting ability to steal your heart when you least expect it, it’s an unassuming triumph.
Key Track: ‘Here, No More’
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