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The Breeders – Mountain Battles (Album Review)

Barely a week after Black Francis has graced us with a new solo single, another moonlighting Pixie is back with their own material: this time, Kim Deal with her first non-Pixies album since 2002’s Title TK.

Opening tracks Overglazed and Bang On are surprisingly rocky (or as rocky as 4AD ever gets), with strong drums on the appropriately named second track, before Night Of Joy slips into more expected territory with hazy vocal whispers over a delicate, dreamy, peyote-soaked lament.

From here on in, there are moments when you can’t help but wonder whether, in fact, 4AD has actually existed at all for the last 15 years, or rather if, instead, the computers have just been set to automatic and programmed with instructions to turn out a regular diet of ethereal, fragile songs by slow, breathy female vocalists.

This familiarity and comfort is what the record label is all about, and Kim Deal is one of its elder statesmen, a woman more rock’n’roll than rock’n’roll itself who can nonetheless turn out works of such fragile beauty. And in the hands of the god of quiet-loud-quiet himself, Steve Albini.

As we hit the halfway mark, German Studies ups the ante, with Star Club-raw guitars (if the Star Club had been filled with girls and filtered through the 4AD production desk on the way out), while the Latin-tinged Spark heads back to the delicate side of the tracks, interspersed with Pixies paranoia. It’s as close to the mother band’s album as she gets here, a song that threatens to explode at any moment but sinks instead into an echo of Venus In Furs.

Istanbul filters in Arabian drums and a feeling of floating away into the hot desert night, while Walk It Off comes back to the present, a garage rock stomp that brings the album back up to date, as does It’s The Love. Reglalame Esta Noche on the other hand conjures up visions of Spanish dancing girls while gently reminding you that nothing by Black or Deal ever seems complete without at least one track in their favourite second language.

Here No More lays down some old country roots and No Way returns to spacey blues riffs dripping in atmosphere before the album ends on its title track, the wonderfully doom-laden Mountain Battles.

In all, it’s been as versatile as Deal is talented, showcasing her myriad skills and drawing us into the many styles and genres she explores. With material as good as this, we can bear to do without Pixies for a while yet.
– Jenni Cole