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REVIEW: The Breeders – ‘All Nerve’ (4AD)

  • 6/10
    - 6/10


On ‘All Nerve’, The Breeders have shown themselves to still have a keen eye for groovy riffs and delightfully playful lyricism – there’s just not enough of it on show at times.

It seems a bit trivial to mention, but when it comes to revived bands from yesteryear there always one key question: do they still have ‘it’? Now, nobody has a definition of just what exactly ‘it’ is, but when it comes to alt-pop/rock outfit The Breeders, ‘it’ undoubtedly means Last Splash – the band’s iconic 1993 record which features the renowned single ‘Cannonball’.

It’s been 25 years since then, and although it has been ten years since Mountain Battles (the band’s last record), All Nerve represents the true rejuvenation of the four-piece with Josephine Wiggs and Jim McPherson joining the Deal sisters once more. So do they still have ‘it’? Well, the answer begrudgingly is ‘kind of’.

There are moments of terrific tenacity that evoke the familiar rebellious attitude that the band has careered so faithfully throughout their discography. Opening track ‘Nervous Mary’ pokes fun at religion in a way that Kim Deal has mastered throughout the years, whilst still maintaining a raucous guitar-sound which will have had many a ‘90s teen pogo-ing once more.

Elsewhere, lead single ‘Wait In The Car’ punches away any fears of this being a failed reunion; the wail of “good morning” from Kelley Deal kick-starts proceedings before a driving guitar melody and drums speed their way through the track’s two minutes.

Yet, for all the jubilation at the aggressive nature of All Nerve, some of the record’s better moments come when The Breeders are at their quietest. The titular track manages to cram a lot into its two minutes with the changes in tempo and dynamic working wonders. The same can also be said for the shimmering ‘Dawn: Making An Effort’, a track which lives in the same loose spaces that Mountain Battles played with, but provides a new and fresh energy not often seen from the band. It’s a track which shows that the band still have something to offer.

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Still, for all the positivity revolving around the record’s opening tracks, the record mis-steps in their attempts to revive that spirit throughout, with much of the latter stages of the record being largely forgettable. ‘Skinhead #2’ chugs along tediously with the guitars struggling to get out of first gear, whilst the one-two of ‘Walking With A Killer’ and ‘Howl At The Summit’ almost stop the album’s early momentum dead in its tracks.

While it may seem obvious to say that the answer to whether or not The Breeders still have ‘it’ is a simple no, that would be a disservice to the effort gone into All Nerve. On the band’s fifth record, the four-piece have shown themselves to still have a keen eye for groovy riffs and delightfully playful lyricism – there’s just not enough of it on show at times. (6/10) (John Tindale)

Listen to All Nerve by The Breeders here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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