It remains, 17 years on, a great place to get lost for a while.
Stevie Chick 2011-02-17
It’s a little known fact that The Breeders’ second album – a curate’s egg of twisted pop, weird art-rock textures and the kind of genius that makes sense to roughly 0.836% of the general populace – sold well enough to score a platinum disc in America (indeed, it now hangs in a corridor in Dave Grohl’s recording studio in LA). The Breeders had began as a side-project for Pixies bassist Kim Deal and Throwing Muses/Belly guitarist Tanya Donnelly; by the time Last Splash hit record shelves in 1993, however, Donnelly was long gone and the Pixies had folded, Deal taking charge of The Breeders and recasting them in the image she shared with twin sister Kelly.
Their debut, 1990’s Pod, was dark, magical, wonderful; its successor was all those things again, only with hooks. Lots of them. Scientific studies have proven that the album’s lead single, Cannonball, has enough hooks to rival many lesser bands’ Greatest Hits, and bloody wars have been started over just what the best part of the song is: the ghostly hums that open it, the loping bassline, the chugga-chugga guitar/drum breaks, the Deal sisters’ hypnotic harmonies on the chorus… It filled indie dancefloors upon release, and still does, and hooked unsuspecting alternateens into the Deals’ magical, subterranean world.
Last Splash would perplex many. Its pop moments were legion and wonderful, but scattered between spooky thrash-outs like New Year, drone-slaked drug-rock meanders like Mad Lucas and Roi, the gonzo surf-rock of Flipside, and squalling instrumental S.O.S. (later sampled by The Prodigy for Firestarter). Some were left baffled; others, though, were quickly seduced by Last Splash as a whole, its weird corners, its very uniqueness.
Last Splash was every bit the equal to the Pixies’ similarly idiosyncratic discography (to these ears, better). It confirmed Deal as a bewitchingly adept songwriter, effortlessly melodious and given to tempering her most sugary compositions with electrifying twists. Divine Hammer was perhaps the sweetest, most innocent ode to the appendages of well-endowed men ever committed to vinyl, while Do You Love Me Now?, which the Deals had been singing as a country ballad since their teens, captured a powerful longing with its mix of aching harmony and slow, crunching rock guitar. Alone, these songs could and did make grown indie-rockers weep; in context of the other varied treats that composed Last Splash, they illuminated the vast sprawl of The Breeders’ wonky pop universe, which remains, 17 years on, a great place to get lost for a while.