The Breeders Release Moutain Battles!

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, April 8, 2008 01:06pm | Post a Comment

The Breeders
are a force of nature (no pun intended)!  I wasn’t sure that they could up the ante after 2002’s Title TK, which I thought might have been the most perfect album ever and seemed to pick up right where Pod left off.  To my great pleasure, they certainly have created an incredible album in every respect, possibly the best album of young 2008-- Mountain Battles.  Blasting off with “Overglazed,” you are taken to another planet where The Breeders guide you through sonic terrain only they can offer.

Mountain Battles is the culmination of many years of recording on and off with the assistance of the likes of Steve Albini, Erika Larson, and Manny Nieto in Los Angeles, Chicago and Dayton, Ohio, and comes complete with incredible design and of course classic 4AD aesthetics and style as a whole.  Mastered at Abbey Road “because I’m going from half-inch tape directly to vinyl, there’s only a couple of places in the world that still do half-inch directly to the cutting of the acetate,” as Kim has explained.  You can hear the passion and dedication to the art of record making in every single track of the album. Joining Kim and Kelley Deal (vocals, guitar) are drummer Jose Medeles and bassist Mando Lopez (of Fear), who played on TitleTK.

The namesake track “Mountain Battles” is somehow oddly reminiscent of Nico's Desertshore and Low-era David Bowie.  The avant-garde composition works its magic whilst Kim croons “My wilting heart does shadow on the moon/ Fantastic view/ Thinking of things to do.”  As a matter of fact, you can hear bits and pieces from decades of music history in the mere 36.5 minutes of the duration of the album.  A few rise to the surface immediately – Jimi Hendrix, Isaac Hayes, Roy Orbison, The Pretenders, Wire... Isn’t this the stuff of which great music is made?  Here one might want to consider the fact that the “All Wave” recording method was used in conjunction with on the fly mixing during mastering for a total analog dream sound end product.  This “pure sound” method is opposed to using any form of digital recording manipulation and sound can be seen as a music making strategy or style parallel to the realist film movement Dogme 95.  Ladies and gentlemen: sit back, relax, close your eyes and enjoy the masterwork that is Mountain Battles

“Night of Joy” sounds like the opening song of an unmade David Lynch film, setting the scene with a seemingly premature but still perfect ending.  “Can’t stop the wave of sorrow/ every mile that you go/ Give me this night.”  The Breeders finagle a nostalgic-sounding 50s guitar line, their incredibly matched vocal tones rounded out with minimal yet expertly-played drums, resulting in the sweetest three-plus minutes of bliss.  “Come home/ come home/ come home/ come home” -- how can you go wrong with a refrain like that with such longing, pining, and ultimately implicit heart-ache? 

The first time I heard “We’re Gonna Rise” streaming on their website a tear came to my eye.  Where was this song when I was in high school?  Of course the world had Last Splash then, but this incredibly beautiful ballad is the impeccable compliment to Title TK’s “Off You.”  Those two songs could have the most incredible looking children!  “No counsel, no grand strategy/ No sword to fall on. . ./ No rules, fact don’t fade/ Just the light on my face/ We’re gonna rise/ Feel the light on my face.”

“Spark” gently unfolds with a simple intro with voice and guitar. . .“Clouds were bruised when the day broke.”  Imagine The Breeders with some Phil Spector girl backup “ooooooo” sounds on Kava Kava “spraying the yard in spark.”  Of course there is the trademark Deal scream into the effect microphone that may ever so briefly take you back to “Cannonball.”  Fantastic!

With the first measure of “Istanbul” the drumstick click and sparse drums provide the big brother beat of Title TK’s “The She” which forever reminds me of high school marching band for some reason.  I think it has been instilled in us, this fact that if your drum section/drummer player sucks you’re in trouble.  A band absolutely has to have a good strong solid foundation with the drums. The tight nominal drums here lay the very necessary foundation for the sonic fields to resonate from the left to right channel.  The fact that Kim Deal was a cheerleader in high school resonates in this track for sure with the call and response “Where you going/ To the city/ Where you going/ Istanbul.”

When Kim Deal is at home caring for her mother who has Alzheimer’s, they sit in the living room and open a thick book called Country Classics and commence singing and playing guitar.  Art imitates life -- “Here No More” could be straight out of an Appalachian primer album. The Deal sisters from Dayton have done it again!  With the world endlessly waiting for another Pixies album, Mountain Battles offers years of work, concrete poetry, experimentation and one or two good old pop hooks to keep you thoroughly engaged.  Not to mention a tour and the chance to see them live if you haven’t.  They will be hitting the stage for a FREE show at Amoeba San Francisco Thursday May 1 at 6pm!

And as if all this wasn’t enough, they offer a song not only in German (the indie instant classic “German Studies”), but also one in Spanish (think San Francisco Mission Burrito fare, but a bit more romantic: “Regalame Este Noche”). 

In a world of overly digitized, produced, prefab music and bands created solely based on the potential to make cash money (think boy bands, pop tarts, American Idol, etc.) it is quite refreshing and idealistic to hear that what motivates Kim Deal to make music is the simple fact of  “If it sounds good, honestly.”  As far as I'm concerned, Kim Deal is the Stanley Kubrick of indie rock.  If you don't believe me, check out a couple tracks on their myspace page.

Please listen to this album with headphones turned up to 11 for optimal results.

-Denah Johnston