Making a Splash
Last Tuesday night at Cannery Ballroom, The Breeders were in town for the release date of LSXX, the new 20th anniversary edition of the alterna-rock classic Last Splash, and all was right with the world. Shit, it was a packed show and there was hardly a line for booze! (We suspect that the alterna-teens don't rage as hard they used to now that they're alterna-thirtysomethings.) Oh, and we're in love with last-minute-addition opener Deerhunter.
Deerhunter is awesome in that shambling, noisy way that The Spin gravitates toward. Their brand-new Monomania makes us think of all our favorite music adjectives — jangle, noise, stomp. Bassman Josh Fauver has left the 'Hunter since we saw them on the Halcyon Digest tour at Exit/In back in 2010, and that's a bummer — his sinewy, bobbing bass lines were long among our favorite elements of the band's sound. New low-end man Josh McKay held his own, however, and the addition of third guitarist Frankie Broyles added to Deerhunter's cavernously melodic and shimmering sound.
Songs from the new album — "The Missing," most notably — were threaded with frontman Bradford Cox's characteristically catchy anti-pop vocal melodies. From beneath his mop-top bangs, the strikingly long and lean Cox led his fellow Atlantans mostly through new material, though Lockett Pundt took lead vocals on the excellent "Desire Lines" from Halcyon, a catchy goddamn number if ever there was one. At its end, the set collapsed into a cocoon of ringing, resonant, harmonic feedback that may indeed have tried the patience of a Breeders fan or two —The Spin enjoyed every second of it, though, and the room responded positively enough to the new-school indie rockers.
Now, let's talk about The Breeders! They never, ever disappoint. We saw them open for Nirvana (How's that for cred?!) in '93, and it changed our life. We saw them on the Title TK tour, and it was one of the most fun nights of our young adulthood. We had high expectations — exceptionally high expectations — and every single one of them was met. Revisiting a band so essential to your musical development is never guaranteed to be a good thing, but The Breeders in 2013 are just as fun, just as sloppy, just as cool as they were in 1993 and in 2002. The only thing missing onstage was the booze and the smoke breaks, which made for arch-entertainment back in the day when sisters Kim and Kelley Deal would light up mid-set and drunkenly shit-talk the audience. And while we do miss the brazen attitude, the sobriety did make the show run more smoothly.
Which is to say that there were still false starts and time-sucking tuning excursions and all sorts of other things more akin to hanging out in the practice space with your friends, but that's all part of the charm. The Breeders' success was a fluke, a confluence of cosmic coincidences that brought a goofy bunch of Dayton kids into the national spotlight, and if they had returned from hiatus as a finely tuned pro unit with all the edges polished off, it just wouldn't have been as cool. Yes, we're sure there were some "professional musicians" in the crowd who were livid about the lack of give-a-fuck, but if a Breeders show is about anything, it's about having a damn good time. And from the first notes of "New Year" to the closing chords of the classic Ed's Redeeming Qualities cover "Drivin' on 9," the Deal sisters hosted one hell of a party.
We should note, however, that sound in Cannery tried our patience more than a little. Last Splash is a muddy-sounding album as is, and the room's photocopy-of-a-photocopy acoustics slathered on yet another layer of mud that we certainly didn't appreciate.
Regardless, we were shocked at how many folks hauled ass out the door before the encore — didn't they know that The Breeders were about to dig into the B-sides and deep cuts? Whatever, those suckers missed "Shock in Gloomtown" — the Guided by Voices song that The Breeders were covering back when nobody knew who GBV was — and they missed a vicious, full-throttle take on "Head to Toe," the very last single recorded with this incarnation of The Breeders. And they also missed "Safari" and Pod-era classics "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" and "Iris," which just boggles our mind. The only thing The Spin missed were cuts off Title TK and Mountain Battles, but that's just us being Breeders super-fans and needing something to quibble with. Now, we just have to wait for the Kelley Deal 6000 20th anniversary to come around and our lives will be complete.