All Nerve, the excellent new album from reunited 1990s rock heroes the Breeders, might never have happened if it depended entirely on Kim Deal reaching out to Jim Macpherson.
"In '97, we get back from the tour, I go downstairs one day, and all of his drums are out of my basement," Deal says in a phone interview from Dayton, Ohio. "We were drinking a lot during that tour, and I thought, 'What did I say to him?'"
Bandmates for five years prior, Deal and Macpherson were keys to one of the alt-rock revolution's biggest success stories: the Breeders' platinum-selling 1993 album Last Splash.
But did they call each other to clear the air?
"No," Deal says flatly. "We have such emotional maturity, we made sure not to talk to each other for the next 18 years."
It's more like 15, but that's immaterial. Ultimately, Last Splash finally brought them back together. In 2013, the Breeders toured to mark the 20th anniversary of their revered sophomore effort, with their "classic" lineup intact: Kim, twin sister Kelley Deal on guitar, Josephine Wiggs on bass, and Macpherson behind the kit.
"I had Kelley call him," Deal says mischievously.
That tour turned into more tours, with expanded set lists and new songs. And soon the quartet was back in Deal's basement, working on the fifth Breeders album. (Deal released 2002's Title TK and 2008's Mountain Battles with different lineups.)
For Deal disciples, All Nerve is not just the long-awaited return of an iconic band—it's a comfort blanket of distinctive sound: serrated guitars, punchy drums, earth-moving bass, and bottomless echo, with candied vocal melodies peeking out from behind it all. The album boasts classic Breeders burners ("Wait in the Car," "Skinhead #2"), the band's most majestic song yet ("Dawn: Making an Effort"), and a perfect cover of Amon Düül II's 1970 freak-out "Archangel's Thunderbird."
In an interview with Billboard earlier this year, Wiggs called All Nerve "kind of a follow-up record to Last Splash." Sonically, that's a fair assessment. Deal scoffs at first, before coming around to the idea. "[Josephine] is not on [Title TK or Mountain Battles]. But for me, it's the follow-up to Mountain Battles," she says, laughing. "No, I agree with her. It does feel totally different."
That difference comes from within these four particular Breeders, and the interaction between them. Kelley Deal is a better-than-ever guitarist who adds "a lot of horror" to the songs, her sister says. Macpherson is a thunderous drummer who immediately forced Deal to turn her amp up two notches upon his return to the basement. And Wiggs is Deal's rhythmic antagonist, a relationship she believes powers the band's engine.
"Josephine likes to say that me pushing the songs forward and her pulling back on the songs... creates a frisson," Deal says. "I know that's happening because I speed up and I'm not supposed to, and I think she's too fucking slow. So I do believe it's happening. But when she says it, it makes it sound really exciting. So maybe there's something to it."Read a longer interview with Kim Deal HERE.