The Breeders – Last Splash

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

What a difference three years makes. When the Breeders started, they were a side project shared by Kim Deal and Tanya Donnelly – the Pixies had not yet released Bossanova and the Throwing Muses were still months away from The Real Ramona. Debut album Pod did not sell particularly well. Come 1993 and the Pixies were over, Donnelly had left not only the Muses but the Breeders as well in order to form Belly, Deal had recruited twin sister Kelley to play guitar (despite the fact that she did not know how to play guitar), drummer Jim MacPherson had joined the band, they opened for Nirvana in Europe, Last Splash became a massive hit, they opened for Nirvana in the States, and then played Lollapalooza (in 1994). And then Kelley got busted for drugs and went to rehab and we had to wait for Kim to resurface with the Amps’ Pacer in 1995.

What I Think of This Album

This is a much different album than Pod. Gone is the mystery and menace, replaced by laughter and color, though retaining sharp edges, but most importantly, characterized by an overwhelming sense of confidence. Last Splash is brashly carefree; it’s like the band doesn’t even know the possibility exists it might do something wrong.

“New Year” sighs into existence before transforming into a muscular rave-up while Deal casually intones “I am the sun / I am the new year” in front a wall of guitars. Hit “Cannonball” is an odd mix of funky bass, distorted vocals, stop/start dynamics, goofy lyrics, a cool guitar hook, massive guitar crunch in the chorus, and a false ending. I love a false ending. “Invisible Man” is trippy and sweet, with some spacey keyboards-as-strings. Unusual and pretty “No Aloha” has a nice little slide guitar before the entire band kicks it into gear for the last thirty seconds or so. Ultimately on the slight side, this is still very fun.

There is a left turn (but a soft one) into noise experimentalism on the fractious “Roi,” which is interesting in its own way (MacPherson plays bass on this track while bassist Josephine Wiggs takes a seat behind the kit). The band approaches sincerity on the vulnerable but chugging “Do You Love Me Now?” – the angelic chorus at the end is to die for. For filler, you could do worse than surf instrumental “Flipside.” Mixed messages abound on the schizophrenic and confusing “I Just Want to Get Along,” whose lyrics suggest that Kelley Deal (who is singing) maybe does not, actually, “just want” anything in particular, other than to rock out to Wigg’s throbbing bass. Not to be outdone, Kim Deal doubles down on opacity with distorted vocals and obtuse lyrics on underwater ballad “Mad Lucas,” which frankly overstays its welcome.

Far more obvious is the horny but ultra-melodic “Divine Hammer,” which is all chiming guitars and sweet vocals, with a cheeky “bang-bang” thrown in. Filler again with thrashy instrumental “S.O.S.” Feminist piece “Hag” relies on militaristic snare work and a snaky bass to support lovely vocals from Deal. Wiggs again anchors the gritty, sweaty “Saints,” which still finds a place for some pretty harmony vocals and a needle-nosed guitar part. Former bandmate Carrie Bradley gets an oblique shout-out via the cover of her former band’s (Ed’s Redeeming Qualities) “Drivin’ on 9,” which is a jokey country number that you nonetheless can’t help but adore; I presume that Bradley plays the violin on this but the liner notes are not terribly helpful.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Saints” is super-cool, sounding exactly like the summer fair it details.

Release Date

August, 1993

The Cover Art

Wonderful. The candied heart and the drops of blood are vibrant and bold, and the green backdrop imparts a soothing naturalism to an otherwise disturbing and shocking image. The fonts for the band name and album title are well-done. Another Vaughn Oliver/v23 masterpiece.

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