The Breeders
Shepherd’s Bush Empire
London 3rd September 2008

For a long time The Breeders seemed to go the way of the Pixies. As both Deal sisters battled their demons, Kim with liquor and Kelley with drugs, attempts at reviving their careers in the late ’90s proved disappointing. Returning with Mountain Battles, their second album since their comeback in 2002, The Breeders bounced back to London to throw a few alterna-anthems in our direction.

Presumably with the amount of money Kim Deal has made from the Pixies reunion she need never pick up the guitar again, and sister Kelley, about to release a book on knitting (Bags That Rock: Knitting on the Road with Kelley Deal) would probably more comfortable doing just that, but for some of us who hold up Pod and Last Splash as some of their favourite albums of the ’90s, their presence is most welcome. Despite the lack of warmth for their recent 4AD album Mountain Battles, it’s a near sell-out crowd, which only goes to show how loved and adored these two matrons of indie rock are.

Opening with “Tipp City” from Kim’s post-Breeders outfit The Amps, the band quickly move into a set that mixes new with old, including a cover from fellow Ohio-ans Guided By Voices. Kim is all smiles, trading banter with the audience with the prevailing mood being one big party. Tracks like “Bang On” and “We’re Gonna Rise” from Mountain Battles fail to improve upon the Breeders legacy, and luckily it’s the prime material from 1993’s grunge opus Last Splash that form the majority of the set and get the loudest of applause, with “Cannonball” sending the masses into middle-aged hysterics. “Safari” still stands as the best song the Breeders ever recorded, the rumbling of drums and guitars combined with Kim’s hiccupping vocals recall a time when it wasn’t all about long-haired boys and their guitars.

There’s a moment of hilarity and sisterly chiding as Kim introduces Kelley on the violin for “Drivin’ on 9”, the grunge equivalent of John Denver’s “Country Roads”, Kim explaining that Kelley “learnt the violin for this song” then adding “she can’t play the violin properly or anything, but she can play this song”. Kelley seemed to take the ribbing in good humour but looked annoyed. The end of the set took the crowd by surprise as Kelley appeared to just walk off, with the rest of the band following, leaving Kim to explain that “they always fall out at some point during the set” and then walked off too.

Encoring with three tracks from Mountain Battles created something of an anticlimax and despite the Spanish-sung “Reglama Esta Noche” being one of the album’s highlights, it was a missed opportunity to tie their career neatly into a post-grunge bow, leaving us with only Last Splash’s “Saints” and its “Summers ready when you are” refrain to pick up the pieces.

Tipp City
Bang On
Shocker in Gloomtown
Divine Hammer
Night of Joy
No Aloha
We’re Gonna Rise
Walk it Off
New Year
I Just Wanna Get Along
Happiness is a Warm Gun
Empty Glasses
Drivin’ on 9
Here No More
Regalame Esta Noche