In 1993, I turned 10 years old. I was in 3rd grade and I absorbed every song in the Top 40 of that year. A look at my cassette collection told the tale: Ace of Base, Toni Braxton, Mariah Carey and worst of all, Wilson Phillips. If it was played on MTV, I listened to it. Sure, some alternative music snuck in there now and then, but nothing made a big impression or changed the way I listened to music until one single came along – “Cannonball” by The Breeders.
I can’t really put my finger on why that song struck a chord with me. Was it that groovy bass line? The sweet deadpan harmonies by the sisters Deal? The absurdist lyrics? That inspired video co-directed by Kim Gordon and the then unknown Spike Jonze? Whatever it was, “Cannonball” essentially changed my tastes in music and opened the door to a wealth of Alternative rock bands and kick started my own obsession with girl rockers. Last Splash remains a staple in my music collection and I even still have that ol’ audio cassette sitting in my closet.
The Breeders started as an outlet for Kim Deal’s songwriting outside of the Pixies. She recruited Throwing Muses guitarist Tanya Donnelly, Slint drummer Britt Walford and Perfect Disaster bassist Josephine Wiggs and recorded Pod. As Black Francis announced the disbanding of the Pixies via a press release, Kim Deal reintroduced the Pixies with twin sister Kelley, Wiggs and drummer Jim MacPhearson and a new record, Last Splash. With the help of the single “Cannonball,” The Breeders practically owned the Alternative market. The video was in heavy rotation on MTV and if Kim Deal wasn’t already an indie rock demigoddess with the Pixies, she certainly was after that single arrived.
Last Splash isn’t a perfect record. It’s uneven, some songs reaching blissful fuzzed out heights, some songs sounding half-thought out and messy. But by no means should The Breeders be relegated to Alternative One Hit Wonder status. Last Splash is imaginative, fragmented and fascinating blend of sounds resulting in a vast collage of inspiration. It’s an album that rivals the Pixies weaker albums and the whole of Frank Black’s solo career.
Like “Cannonball” (which reached #2 on the Billboard charts) the best songs on Last Splash have a really buoyant quality. Filled with sweet vocals by Kim and Kelley, some pretty sexually-charged lyrics and some of Wiggs’ most aggressive and melodic baselines, “Divine Hammer” remains one of my favorite songs and should have been a bigger hit than it was. “Drivin’ on 9” relies on a Country groove and shows that Kim Deal is a better singer than she’s typically given credit for. Mostly instrumental, “Roi” is like a metal surf song chock full of spacey guitar noise courtesy of the Deals.
“Invisible Man” combines aggressive chugging guitars with Kim’s romanticism and once those strings come in, you’re just sucked in, like a “sweet caress.” “No Aloha” plays with an interesting mix, but Jim MacPhearson’s thumping, powerful drums are what sell this track. “Do You Love Me Now” revives a song from their EP Safari with a slower pace. Though a solid track, it’s easily skippable. Instrumentals like “Flipside” and “S.O.S.” show a great deal of skill and really great production, but in the end feel like filler. The Kelley Deal penned “I Just Want to Get Along” doesn’t achieve the depth and greatness that the other tracks reach.
Despite the misses, collectively Last Splash is still an outstanding album. Songs like “Cannonball,” “Divine Hammer” and “Drivin’ on 9” still bring a smile to my face and I can’t help but sing along. It deserves its status as a must-have for Alternative rock fans. For myself, Last Splash will always hold a special place for me. It was my gateway drug, if you will, and it opened new doors of music that I might never have encountered otherwise. I take my hat off to you, Breeders.