I’d had this in mind to consider for a DRC meeting for some time. Perhaps bruised by the recent realisation that I had only previously chosen one female singer (i’m going to add Low to bump that total up to two), The Breeders elbowed their way to the top of the list for this week.
I hadn’t listened to ‘Pod’ for a while and I was surprised when I came back to it. My recollection of it is so heavily influenced by the first Peel Session the band recorded, with Steve Albini, and which was broadcast before any of their music had been released. Specifically the song ‘Iris’, which at the time I found so disorienting, so much of a wallop to my sense of musical right and wrong that i’ve never forgotten it. I was actually surprised to find ‘Iris’ nestling part way through side 2 of the record. It grows and grows in my memory to the extent that I would have sworn it led the album off and that the rest of the collection merely trailed in its wake. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The real wonder of ‘Pod’ is the strength and certainty of all the songs. ‘Glorious’, ‘Hellbound’, ‘When I Was A Painter’, ‘Only In 3’s’, ‘Lime House’ and pretty much everything in between stands up as blunt and intense songs which challenge without being alienating.
There’s something about the directness of Kim Deal’s approach to songwriting, to her guitar and voice, that is unmistakable and, in it’s own way, unimproveable. In theory The Breeders were a genuine collaboration, at this stage at least, and Tanya Donnelly must take credit for bringing sunshine to ‘Fortunately Gone’ just as Jo Wiggs’ influence can be clearly heard in the dark undertow of ‘Oh!’ and ‘Iris’. But somehow this still sounds like Deal’s record (I know, she’s the singer..). I don’t think she necessarily gets the immense credit she deserves. Memory can be deceptive, but listening back properly now it seems to me that not only was ‘Pod’ the best Breeders record, it was also, with the exception of ‘Surfer Rosa’, quite possibly the best record Kim Deal ever wrote and played on.
Nick listened: For some inexplicable reason I don’t own Pod, despite thinking Gigantic is the best Pixies song, thinking Cannonball is one of the greatest singles ever released, and owning the other three Breeders records. This was really good, and I’ve added it to my list of things to buy. There’s really not much else to say.
Tom Listened: For some inexplicable reason I have a huge amount of affection reserved for the Pixies, despite only ever really liking Surfer Rosa. I was slightly disappointed with Doolittle for which I probably had unreasonable expectations, but listening again it still sounds forced and overly deliberate. The open and natural rawness of SR is more of an act on Doolittle it seems to me. From then on it was always going to be a case of diminishing returns as Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde went on to prove.
As a result, and despite being well aware of their output as I was an avid John Peel listener back then, I didn’t bother bothering with The Breeders. This felt like a mistake when I heard Cannonball for the first time, but still I held off. I seem to recall reviews at the time suggesting that the albums were patchy with high highs but quite a few fallow patches.
Well, Pod seemed to contradict this assessment – it sounded consistently high quality on the night…but also surprisingly dated. They don’t make them like this anymore and I suppose Kim Deal had such a distinctive way with melody and playing the bass (and the Pixies were so influential) that it comes as no surprise that this is a record very much of its time yet none the worse for it. Nice one Rob.
Graham Listened: This choice really highlighted an issue for me. I like the Pixies. I like Throwing Muses (even saw them live). I like The Breeders. I’ve enjoyed listening to all of them over the years, but never felt inspired enough to go and purchase any of their albums. I really enjoyed listening to this album and I could happily listen to it again. I guess it could be down to a period in time when I fell out of love with American music (refer to Round 14 and blame REM) at end of 80’s. When I returned years later and started listening again to what our colonial cousins had to offer, I guess I picked up on things like Pearl Jam/Nirvana/Screaming Trees and had missed out on quite a lot. My loss, I suppose.