Wednesday, May 13, 2009

THE BREEDERS - Fate to Fatal EP (Self-Released)

(This article was originally written for the website Muso's Guide,

Happy days: the Deal sisters certainly seem to have rediscovered their enthusiasm for music. Last year’s impressive Mountain Battles was only the second album the band had released since the breakout success of 1993’s Last Splash, but now hot on its heels comes this self-released four-track EP.

Much like Mountain Battles, it’s a mixed bag with no real overarching aesthetic. The title track is the most classically ‘Breeders’ track: a shambling, dizzying blast of lo-fi riffery which threatens to collapse in on itself, with the Deals alternating between drowsy crooning and tuneless bawling. It’s good fun to a point, the sense of disorder emphasised by the way the guitars seem at odds with the rhythm, but ultimately it’s not likely to stay in the memory long after the final note rings out.

Which is a pity, because things don’t get any better. ‘The Last Time’ has the distinction of featuring Mark Lanegan on vocal duties, but it won’t go down as one of his better collaborations: his contribution sounds almost phoned-in, which is no real surprise considering what he’s given to work with - little more than an unremarkable, ambling backing track that sporadically threatens to break into something heavier, but quickly retreats to its comfort zone. It’s more than a little reminiscent of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s ‘Sometimes Always’ - another track that featured a heavyweight vocal talent (Hope Sandoval) guesting with indie-rock royalty - but nowhere near as enjoyable, and that comparison is somewhat telling: much like the previous track, it’s as if the last 15 years didn’t happen.

‘Chances Are’ is a cover of the Bob Marley song, and a pretty standard cover at that – its minimal acoustic instrumentation allows the twins to harmonise sweetly, but it’s hard to see the song as anything other than a curio for diehard fans. Final track ‘Pinnacle Hollow’, meanwhile, subjects the listener to a good two-and-a-half minutes of aimless noodling before the vocals come in. When they do, however, it’s a pleasure: world-weary and jaded sounding vocals (“I don’t know a sin I haven’t found”) suddenly make sense of the lulling guitars.

All in all, though, the record is a disappointment: instead of indicating some possible change of direction or simply maintaining the momentum provided by last year’s well-received record, Fate to Fatal merely sounds like a bunch of inferior out-takes. Much as we may have bitched about their sluggish work ethic over the last decade, maybe taking their time to record albums wasn’t such a bad approach after all?


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