The Breeders

The mists of time are very foggy on this one.

I am fairly certain that my introduction to the Breeders came via Tanya Donelly. Somewhere in the early ’90s, I became aware — I couldn’t say how — that in years prior there had been a band called Throwing Muses, and they were important or influential or interesting in some way. And that of the two sisters or cousins or whatever in that band (stepsisters, actually), one of them had left and later formed a band with Kim Deal of the Pixies.

But then, I must have been aware of the Pixies by then, too. I’m pretty sure I’d at least seen this video on MTV, which was pretty intriguing even if it wasn’t even their song. (It eventually led me to buy all the Pixies records to that point, and never led me to buy any Jesus and Mary Chain albums, for what it’s worth.) And even if it didn’t include Kim Deal singing at all. Perhaps by then I’d bought Doolittle and Surfer Rosa and heard “Gigantic“? But then I would have been more excited about the Breeders, don’t you think, without even knowing about the added draw of Donelly? Or maybe I was still under the misapprehension that the real draw of the Pixies was Black Francis’s sneering vocals?

I couldn’t say. I can say that my first Breeders album was Pod, and that it remains my favorite in many respects, even if Last Splash is objectively more polished and has “Drivin’ on 9,” my favorite Breeders song, on it. (Though that too is a cover, and never led me to buy any Ed’s Redeeming Qualities albums, for what it’s worth.) The cover of “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” with that scissors percussion is twisted genius, and “Hellbound” and “When I Was a Painter” and those harmony vocals and “soup of magpies/in a pottery bowl” on “Fortunately Gone” — the complementary off-kilter sensibilities of Deal and Donelly (though Donnelly didn’t write any Pod songs and didn’t even sing all that much) somehow clicked for me in a way the band never quite did once Donelly was gone to start Belly and it was the Deal sisters on Last Splash, and how many rock bands feature sisters, anyway, and is it strange that Tanya Donelly was in two of them at one point?

Anyway, soon enough it was the Year of the Woman and Last Splash was out and “Cannonball” was all over the radio, along with Melissa Etheridge and Sheryl Crow and Luscious Jackson, and then suddenly someone decided enough of that, because here came Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots and Smashing Pumpkins and Candlebox and I had to stop listening to commercial radio forever. By the time the Breeders recorded a followup, it was years later and wasn’t as good as the first two and nobody much wanted to hear it anyway.

I saw the Breeders open for Nirvana at the now-demolished New York Coliseum the year they were big, though it was so crowded and the sound was so awful (“like seeing a show in the world’s largest school lunchroom,” concluded either me or my friend Pete, I forget which) that I don’t remember much other than almost getting kicked in the head by the multiple crowd surfers. I almost saw the Breeders again when I happened to be in Boston during their show for their tour for that album, but I didn’t go. Then years after that, I tried to see them play a free show in an empty public pool in Williamsburg but the line was too long, and I only got to see the last few songs while peering through a fence from the playground next door. I finally saw them perform all of Last Splash a few more years after that, and it was good and all, but I felt like I something important had flitted by, and I’d already missed it. Too bad there wasn’t more time.

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