On All Nerve, their first album in a decade, The Breeders have put together their strongest complete work since their cultural highpoint, Last Splash. Perhaps not coincidently the lineup from that album, Kim and Kelley Deal, Jim MacPherson and Josephine Wiggs, has reunited for the first time in 25 years resulting in All Nerve.
The album is a collection of shorter angular numbers that twist strong bass work around guitar noise with arty impressionistic lyrics and vocals, all guided along by confident production. The opener is the weakest track here with “Nervous Mary”finding the Deal sisters singing together in a pleasant pairing, but little else invigorating. The energy picks up to high octane levels for the groups spunky single “Wait in the Car” before Kim’s bass pushes into the loud choruses of the title track.
As the album progresses the songs become stronger and where The Breeders always best suited on quirky one-offs, the most complete songs on All Nerve have a larger sense of grandeur. “MetaGoth” intriguingly pairs chugging and soaring guitars against each other (all around Deals heavy as hell bass and MacPherson’s kick drum) and never reaches the anticipated crescendo; instead a feedback outro bleeds into “Spacewomen” a cosmic track whose lyrics and vocals are surprisingly rooted in stadium sports and peaceful fun.
“Walking with a Killer” uses cymbals and pretty guitar (again all around that four string bass and kick drum foundation) to offset the nightmarish lyrics. A track like “Dawn: Making an Effort” is a dreamy pause which is a welcomed artsy break but even better is the bands choice to cover AmonDuul II’s “Archangels Thunderbird”. It fits like a glove into The Breeders style and vision.
The successful tracks continue to arrive in unusual places as the group uses dramatic tension to elevate seemingly innocent tunes. “Howl at the Summit” bangs and stumbles before injecting rising guitars and booming drums to build to a gloriously scenic peak, helped along by backing vocals from Bones Sloane, Courtney Barnett, Dave Mudie, and Dylan Ranson-Hughes. “Skinhead #2” uses cavernously deep grooves with impressionistic lyrics to paint an enigmatic scene, while closer “Blues at the Acropolis” closes the album with dramatic flair and arena-ready style.
An album both longtime fans will love and a new generation will appreciate; All Nerve is a triumphant success for The Breeders as they remain true to their spirit while ranging forward.