It’s a safe bet that the administrators at New York’s New Museum, currently staging “NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash And No Star" -- a crtitically acclaimed art show named after a Sonic Youth album recorded that year -- have not heard an attendee uncontrollably splurge “Thank you for doing this!” the way The Breeders did at Brooklyn's Bell House on Friday night (March 29).
The band's classic 1993 lineup packed the venue and kicked off a 27-date world tour where they’ll perform the entirety of their signature album 'Last Splash,' a 20-year-old alt-rock landmark as prone to wide-eyed gushing as any other document of prime-time grunge. For all the shine foisted upon the album’s crossover hit single “Cannonball,” all 15 songs laid down by sisters Kim and Kelley Deal, bassist Josephine Wiggs and drummer Jim MacPherson (plus keyboardist/violinist Carrie Bradley) remain a flawless document of the moment that the underground’s inherent and defiant post-punk-art weirdness embraced pop (or maybe it was the other way around).
History rightly says The Breeders were a band ruled by the Deals -- famed Pixies bassist Kim and her sister Kelley, the brand mainstays. Yet what the reconstituted 1993 line-up revealed on-stage is that its musical secret lay as much (if not more) in the rhythm section. Gone from the late ‘90s Breeders, Wiggs and MacPherson weren’t irreplaceable (though the latter is among the era’s most under-regarded instrumentalists ), but they had a greater impact on the band’s dynamic than pop historians will admit. At the Bell House show, it may have taken a couple of songs for the overall sound to find equilibrium, but MacPherson’s propulsion was present from the get-go, as was Wiggs’ timing, her thick Brit-punk-funky basslines, and (as the show accelerated) increasingly curly bangs.
As the evening unfolded, the band’s playing loosened, allowing for the song-cycle to exhibit its inherent oddity: the math-rock (“Roi”) and surf-rock (“Flipside”) instrumental asides, the country one (“Driving on 9”), and the pop tunes (“Divine Hammer,” Kelley’s “I Just Wanna get Along”). Despite a generation’s famously miserablist attitude, 'Last Splash' is still as much about smiling rather sneering - a fact that was reinforced even in this evening’s nostalgic form. Kim’s underground-famous “No Aloha” lyric that “motherhood means mental freeze” received only a solitary clap. Two decades later, parents unsurprisingly dominated the room. And with the few casual “Cannonball” fans gone from the room by the by the time the band broke into a six-song encore of b-sides, post-album tracks and even-oldiers, the sold-out, old-media-heavy crowd could show its unadulterated love by finally moving in pogo-like motion. Something else you are unlikely to see in a museum.
The Last Splash:
Do You Love Me Now?
I Just Wanna Get Along
Drivin' on 9
Shocker in Gloomtown
Head to Toe
Happiness is a Warm Gun
Don’t Call Home!