“I wanna see you / Especially you / You don’t know know how much I miss you,” Kim Deal sings in the opening of “All Nerve,” the title track off the Breeders‘ recently announced album, and only the second new song we’ve heard from them in more than eight years. It’s an appropriate sentiment, and one many fans of these alternative rock superheroes likely share. The band hasn’t exactly been MIA since 2008’s spectacular Mountain Battles and the similarly great EP Fate to Fatal—after reuniting their classic lineup in 2013 for the 20th anniversary of the seminal Last Splash, they’ve continued to tour sporadically—but seeing a band play beloved old songs isn’t the same as hearing new music.
“Wait in the Car,” released last October as a 7″ and included on the upcoming album, wasn’t the best reintroduction. The elements were all there—an angular guitar riff, that signature Breeders harmony, lyrics more evocative than literal—but everything was a little too on the nose. The odd bits, like the aforementioned dissonant guitar and Deal’s opening shout of “good morning!,” were predictably odd. The song’s refrain—”sinner, I”—seemed so familiar I could’ve sworn they’d used it already on another song. It was fun and playful and certainly not bad, but at its worst, “Wait in the Car” sounded recycled.
“All Nerve” suffers from none of the same issues. The tempo is slowed down, giving the band some room to breathe and the song’s distinctions—especially the heavenly reverbed guitar—some space to resonate. The lyrics are less abstract, opting instead for the intimacy of classic Breeders tracks like “Off You” and especially “Do You Love Me Now?” When Deal, multi-tracked and drenched in echo, sings “I may be high / I may hide and run outta you,” just after those yearning opening lines, fans may have a hard time not thinking of Deal’s drug use in the ’90s and the often long breaks between Breeders tours and releases. She’s not here to apologize, but you can hear the ache in her voice. Whoever she is speaking to, the distance between them is palpable.
The song’s chorus, conversely, is much more defiant. Deal’s declaration “I won’t stop” is reflected by loud, distorted guitar, boldly ascending against the wistful cast of moments before. “I hit the hull / Oh God, I hit them all / You don’t know how far I’d go,” Deal sings, announcing that after almost 30 (often stormy) years, this band is by no means close to done yet. The whole thing ends in two minutes and change, as many of their best tracks do, but in that time it gives us something we’ve been waiting nearly a decade for: a real, new Breeders song.