The Breeders - All Nerve (Cover Artwork)

The Breeders

All Nerve (2018)


The Breeders return with their first new album since 2009’s Fate to Fatal EP and see the Deal sisters reuniting with Josephine Wiggs on bass and Jim Macpherson on drums, reprising the line-up responsible for 1993’s Last Splash. However, this is no mere “Cannonball” reunion retread as Kim and Kelley offer a delightfully disheveled version of their sound without a complete rehash of past explorations. All Nerve is another strong set of songs that highlights the Deals’ indelible, floating vocals with some of the band’s loosest songs. As opposed to the fuller, polished production of Last Splash, most songs revel in the sparse sonic atmospherics that characterized Pod, employing generous amounts of guitar distortion balanced by ethereal, airy vocals from the sisters Deal.

All Nerve moves at its own pace with no clear indication that it gives a fuck if you’re coming along for the ride. The album’s attitude is all shoulder shrugs and sly winks over the shoulder as our troubadours move languidly from song to song with the only sharp turns coming from the pivots in subject matter. Songs whiplash between absurdist non-sequiturs to sincere declarations of devotion or shrewd observations on the farce of humanity. The Deal sisters’ acerbic banter is flagrantly unfurled on early single “Wait in the Car” as Kim deadpans “Consider I / always struggle with the right word / meow meow meow meow meow.” “Howl at the Summit” begins with Kim sighing that she’s “wasting with leisure and stale as a corpse” while “Archangel’s Thunderbird” implores us to “rent a destroyer and sail to Cape Cod” and proceeds through a hypnagogic tangle as the drums drop in and out with guitars taking random stabs at a foothold.

The moments where the band allow the sarcasm to fall aside and display some vulnerability result in the album’s most memorable moments. Immediately following “Wait in the Car” in stark contrast, the title track is a lovely, warm distorted slow dancing ‘60s ballad as Kim recalls a lost partner and pines, “You don’t know how far I’d go…I’m all nerve.” “Walking with a Killer” is a haunting late-night travelogue as our protagonist is unwittingly accompanying a predatory male and speaking to us from beyond her fatal versus metaphorical demise with the unsettling atmospherics interrupted by cacophonous guitar interludes. Perhaps the most incisive observation on the album arises in “Blues at the Acropolis” as our main Deal on a European excursion documents the persistent decline of Western civilization as she “mourn[s] over the marble steps…[where] drunks take a piss where heroes once bled out.”

The album is an enjoyable visit from a band whose familiar imprint is sealed across the pantheon of independent, underground rock. The anesthetic ballad “Dawn” provides the clearest answer to the existence and purpose of All Nerve as it celebrates “one wild sprawl / untethered” with the band “making an effort” at their own pace to avoid the creep of time and “dawn running us down.”