The Breeders, 'Mountain Battles' (4AD)

8
Mountain Battles
Critical Mass
Label: 4AD

by Lindsey Thomas

In 2002, the Breeders ended their nine-year studio hiatus with the comeback-worthy Title TK, an album that veered off the three-minute- pop-song path, yet still offered a few good jolts. On its first track, Mountain Battles shows potential for the same electricity and strangeness. "Overglazed" is a Who-style entrance of not-quite-stadium proportions: roiling drum fills, backward guitar, and a call of "I can feel it" echoing across the canyon. But the spark generated by Kim Deal's cry doesn't set off a powder keg so much as a smoldering pyre.

Much of the album feels like a trip around the world via a fever dream: There's the anxious, stomping "German Studies," with its overlapping, disorienting vocals; disarmingly earnest serenade "Regalame Esta Noche"; cowboy lullaby "Here No More"; and "Istanbul," which sets ghostly verses and a chanting rope-skip chorus to clicking drumsticks and beatnik string bass.

When the music isn't jittery, it turns eerily serene and a little uncomfortable. "Spark" is quietly plodding one moment and stabbed by jagged guitar the next, as volatile as the scintillating summer power lines it describes. Deal's skewed vocals, doubled and tripled in off-kilter harmonies, keep Mountain Battles on the dark side.

The Breeders can still crank out straightforward rock songs ("Walk It Off," "It's the Love"), but it's the creepier stuff that gets under your skin and stays there.

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