Review: The Breeders Return to Dynamic Drama of Nineties Heyday on 'All Nerve'

The lineup that recorded 1993's alt-rock gem 'Last Splash' is back and they're in peak form

The Breeders lineup that recorded 1993's 'Last Splash' finally reunites on 'All Nerve.' Credit: Marisa Gesualdi

On the fifth Breeders album, the songs are all cinematic movement – hiding, escaping, screaming in the meadow, running for the exit. Such is life as the Breeders' Kim Deal, a rock genius with a powderkeg of bittersweet melodies and fearless emotions forever ready to blow, but often without a band to light the fuse. (This has been her own doing, at times.) On 2010's Mountain Battles, Deal's cry was "I can feel it!" and you could sense her reaching for that baseline with a makeshift crew. Here, it's a wryly chirpy "Good morning!" on first single "Wait in the Car" and she's in peak form, briskly directing the action.

The boost in dynamic drama is due to the return of the lineup that recorded 1993's alt-rock gem Last Splash – twin sister-guitarist Kelley Deal, bassist Josephine Wiggs, and drummer Jim MacPherson. Openers "Nervous Mary" and "Wait in the Car" prowl and dash, as the twins' vocals, Kim's guitar, and the coiled-tight rhythm section create an almost film-noir atmosphere of fraught anticipation and shifty post-punk shadows ("I got business," spits Kim). The title track stops you dead, Kim's heart blown open, as she softly chants "You don't know how much I miss you" and then "You don't know how far I'll go." On the album's radiantly sprawling centerpiece "Spacewoman," Kim (on guitar and piano) muses, "How long?" while bystanders bat around a beach ball at a baseball game. By the album's closer, "Blues at the Acropolis," she's matter-of-factly cooing about junkies draped across monuments and drunks taking a piss where heroes once bled out. Staring down mortality, hissing men, and whatever else you got, she just keeps moving.