It’s hard to believe that fifteen years have passed since Last Splash, The Breeder’s ultra successful second album, knocked over the amps of greedy distortion and into the welcoming arms of fans worldwide. While Mountain Battles won’t likely meet such enthusiasm (nor break any barriers, for that matter), there’s something about a new Breeders record that’s both nostalgic and intriguing upon.
I’ll reiterate: fifteen years. Lot’s have happened between now and then. With the exception of a live album and an EP, The Breeders released one album, 2002’s Title TK. Somehow, in the midst of all that, bassist Kim Deal managed to reunite her previous band, The Pixies, which went on a massively successful reunion tour that spawned millions of new fans and hundreds of rumors of a new album. The result? Frank Black returned to his solo efforts and now we’re here with Mountain Battles. Although incomparable, this context does come to mind.
The problem with Mountain Battles is that it’s not a very enjoyable listen. Furthermore, it doesn’t really stick. It seems at time lame, certainly in comparison to The Breeder’s previous works. “We’re Gonna Rise” is just under four minutes, but it seems an eternity, with a monotonous bass line and even staler guitar work. If it weren’t for both Kelly and Kim Deal’s vocals, the song could have been shuffled away as a b-side, or the work of a high school rock band.
It’s unfortunate that this trend continues. ” The very 60’s, psychedelic “Spark”, with lines like “I’m chewing power lines…”, attempts at dream pop that, honestly, newcomers Beach House have recently done much better. Then there’s “Istanbul”, perhaps one of the worst songs in recent memory, bringing on migraines no different than the Gin Blossom’s have in the past. Think of a six hour drive through the Mojave Desert, in July, absolutely congested, but spun on four different types of cough syrup and without an end in sight. I don’t even want to imagine how these songs will fill in stage time when performed. They can’t.
Where the album shines is when it starts moving. “German Studies” is what makes such a band intriguing. Where Frank Black’s whiny vocal harp inundated much of The Pixies eccentric, drum driven tracks, here the music is more harmonious and less abrasive. This is a smooth glide with the same nonsense, but sexy. “Walk It Off” is a little more gas for what is already a slow churning record, with beautiful poetry, unfortunately lost on confused instrumentation. It just doesn’t know what it wants to be.
Even the cultural accents, as seen with “German Studies” and continued with “Regalame Esta Noche,” seem forced. The latter being a slow burner that continues to drive into a vacuous cavern, with no sense of direction and no plans to return. “It’s The Love” is a tad runny, vocally, and about a 1:50 seconds in, the guitar parts have now been attributed to eighth graders. Naturally, the end is near, at least for the album.
Where the wonderful, encapsulating album opener, “Overglazed”, reminded us of the poppy macabre The Breeders can disjointly hold together, it is still nevertheless, a misleading track. However, the album’s closer, “Mountain Battles”, is a great harbinger and end to a lackluster dud. This is a Jefferson Airplane tune, if only all the members had O’D’ed and lead singer Grace Slick just started playing each instrument randomly and at irregular intervals. What a perfect closer to a bland, stale album that could grow on repeated listens, but will most likely evaporate on stage.