Although they were enormously influential—it seemed as if every band during the alternative-rock explosion of the ’90s wanted to mimic the sound of “Pod” (1990), to say nothing of emulating the success of “Last Splash” (1993) and its mega-hit “Cannonball”—the Breeders have not exactly been prolific. Led by 46-year-old twins Kim and Kelley Deal, the group fell apart in a haze of drug troubles in the mid-’90s, and until recently, its four-album discography included only one other disc in the new millennium, the forgettable “Title TK” in 2002.
Now, following her brief, nostalgic but oh-so-lucrative reunion with her first and even more influential band the Pixies, Kim Deal is back playing with her sister and two new Breeders (the rhythm section of Mando Lopez and Jose Medeles) and recording once more with Chicago engineer Steve Albini (the man responsible for that much-coveted sound back when) in order to give us the new “Mountain Battles.” But it hardly comes close to their best offerings in the ’90s.
Short on inspiration—the strongest tracks are a cover of “It’s the Love” by the obscure Ohio power-pop band the Tasties and “Walk It Off,” which may or may not be about the notoriously contentious Pixies (“Nobody’s allowed to fight/’til the band starts playin’ tonight”)—the Breeders circa 2008 also lack energizing rhythms, memorable hooks or anything particularly original to say. They also cover (and slaughter) the Mexican standard “Regalame Esta Noche,” sing in German on the dreadful “German Studies” and basically phone in an album clearly crafted as a welcome distraction from what by all accounts has become a boring life in Dayton. (Kelley apparently is now addicted to knitting, while Kim lives at home, helping to care for her mother.)