Breeders : Title TK

Troubled siblings Kim and Kelley Deal return with their first, Steve Albini-produced, album in a decade...

In the nine years between the last Breeders album and this one, the musical landscape might have changed beyond almost all recognition – but on first meeting with ‘Title TK’, you could be forgiven for thinking nothing has changed at all. Here, after all, is Kim Deal, her voice still steely. Here’s her troubled sister Kelley, and members of the punk group Fear. There’s even Steve Albini producing, too. It’s almost like Kurt Cobain’s still alive. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. Always one of the most idiosyncratic talents in what was then called ‘college rock’, Kim Deal’s erratic professional course has incorporated everything from huge hits (1993’s ‘Cannonball’) to lo-fi garage rock (1995’s Amps album), so a lengthy disappearance from sight was perhaps inevitable. That she and The Breeders would return from it having produced something quite as good as ‘Title TK’, however, probably wasn’t.

And ‘Title TK’ is good. It’s also odd, tuneful, sad, and impressively empty sounding, the arrangements of the tunes showcasing skeletal guitar and drum patterns and Deal’s remarkable voice. If anecdotal tales of the Deal sisters often centre on chaos, what’s most evident here is the tightly-honed order. Though pieced together from sessions held in 1999 and 2001, there’s still a great sense of unity about the album, a sense of method and procedure, and of everything finding its proper place.

This is, it has to be said, not the buzzing pop of ‘The Last Splash’, and contains nothing like ‘Cannonball’. Reminiscent instead of something like PJ Harvey‘s debut album ‘Dry’, it strips away the dark producer’s art and foregrounds the – usually quite intense – feeling instead. There’s plenty of it to be had: “I am the autumn in the scarlet,” Deal intones on the single ‘Off You’, “I am the make up on your eyes” and it sets a highly romantic tone, but elsewhere this is an offbeat and lyrical world of people smoking the Bible, and parties where you find things floating in your beer. As playful musically, ‘Title TK’ has a cumulative effect, a series of snapshots of dark punk (‘Little Fury’, ‘Son Of Three’), soft ballad (‘Off You’), and a couple of songs like ‘Sinister Foxx’ which are a bit like Deal’s former employers the Pixies. It’s the sound of experimentation working, it’s what what the second Elastica album should have sounded like, and it’s a compelling story unfolding, with many more interesting twists still to come.

John Robinson