Cool Kim still the real deal
Alt-rocker lives up to her reputation on the Breeders’ first album for 10 years, writes Simon Collins
Portland hipsters the Dandy Warhols once sang about wanting a girl as cool as Kim Deal. And why not? As she does interviews with Australian journalists, the former member of Pixies and current leader of the Breeders — both unimpeachable alt-rock pioneers — strums her Gibson Les Paul Goldtop guitar.
Deal is explaining that while the bassline and tempo of Breeders’ breakthrough 1993 hit Cannonball are much-talked about, the choppy yet propulsive guitar riff is also pretty damn kick-arse.
“(The song) was built on the guitar,” the 56-year-old says from home in Dayton, Ohio. “Who wouldn’t want to sit around and play that all day, it’s just fun.”
The Breeders’ new album All Nerve, their first since 2008’s Mountain Battles, is also chock-a-block with the tasty riffs, off-kilter rhythms and oblique lyricism that made them 90s icons.
Their fifth album spun out of the band’s 20th anniversary tour for landmark album, Last Splash, and featured the line-up which recorded the 1993 classic — Deal and her sister Kelley, English bassist Josephine Wiggs and drummer Jim Macpherson.
As the tour — which included a memorable gig at Perth’s Astor Theatre in October 2013 — stretched into 2014, Deal decided to expand the set list beyond Last Splash to include fan favourites and a few new numbers.
So, they swapped out slow album track Mad Lucas for Walking with a Killer, a rocking new song Deal wrote for a solo project nearly a decade ago. Then Skinhead #2, one of two songs on the new album Deal wrote with Wiggs, was added and then album closer Blues at the Acropolis.
Soon they had enough songs to head into the studio, recording in Chicago with Steve Albini, whose association with Deal goes all the way back to Pixies’ 1988 debut album Surfer Rosa. “He’s family,” she says.
While the Breeders leader recorded Mountain Battles with her east-LA line-up, she has since moved back to Ohio to take care of her elderly mother. Kelley and Macpherson also live in Dayton, while Wiggs could make the long drive down from New York City, so it made sense to write and record All Nerve with the Last Splash line-up. The Breeders, who should tour here on the new album, were recording across the Ohio River in Kentucky when Courtney Barnett and her band stopped by the studio. They were soon singing backing vocals — well, chants — on the dark Howl at the Summit. Deal first heard the Melbourne garage rocker when Barnett covered Cannonball for a US website in 2014. “It’s a hard song to cover,” she says. “You play it too in-time, there’s too much spit and polish to it and it sounds kind of dorky.
“They were very ramshackle and it sounded really groovy . . . They did a really good job.”
Back when Cannonball shot Last Splash to platinum sales, the Deal sisters were not dealing with the attention. Kelley entered rehab for heroin addiction in 1994, while Kim stumbled along with her demons until also getting help in 2002.
“I’m enjoying it all,” Deal says of the Breeders circa 2018. “I enjoyed it back then too but seemed to be careening around a lot. Maybe because I’m not drinking and I’m not high all the time. “I don’t know if I’m in control, but at least I can enjoy the moment. Which is nice.”
‘I’m enjoying it all. I enjoyed it back then too but seemed to be careening around a lot.’ Kim Deal
All Nerve is out now.
US alt-rock icons the Breeders, with Kim Deal second from left.