How many comeback albums can one band make — and in how many different forms? Kim Deal, the only constant member in the Breeders' three-decade history, seems determined to find out.
"All Nerve" is the first record in 10 years from this pioneering alternative rock group, which Deal formed in 1989 while she was simultaneously playing bass in the Pixies. Yet it hardly marks the first time Deal has un-called it quits: "Title TK," from 2002, revived the Breeders (albeit with a fresh lineup) nine years after the band broke through commercially with 1993's "Last Splash."
For "All Nerve," due Friday, Deal reconvened the players who created "Last Splash," themselves a different bunch from the group behind the Breeders' debut.
Why exactly is hard to know. In a recent interview, Deal told the New York Times that she'd repaired her relationships with drummer Jim Macpherson and with her twin sister, Kelley Deal, who plays guitar. (Josephine Wiggs rounds out the quartet on bass.) So there's that.
And perhaps Deal is hopeful that these musicians will score a left-field hit as they did with "Cannonball" — unlikely in the age of Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars, but hey, who knows?
What makes this on-and-off pattern especially curious is the consistency of Deal's artistic vision. Full of dreamy vocals over fuzzy, interlocking guitar parts, "All Nerve" is as clearly her show as any previous Breeders album; it gives you the sense that she could hire Lady Antebellum to back her and the result would still sound just like this.
Though there are highlights — including the winsome title track and the jumpy "Wait in the Car" — Deal's songwriting isn't quite as sticky as it used to be, with simpler melodies and fewer turns of phrase that pop like the twisted bumper-sticker slogans she once threw out. (Nothing here will get fists pumping as surely as "Divine Hammer" or "Bang On" when the Breeders kick off a North American tour at the Fonda Theatre on April 5.)
But maybe the record's plainness is an illusion; maybe it only seems kind of blah as a result of the comparison its personnel invites you to make to "Last Splash." If that's the case, history suggests it's not a problem Deal will struggle with for long.
Release date: March 2