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Mountain Battles

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Album Review

It only took the Breeders a little under six years to deliver the follow-up to Title TK, which is progress, considering that it was nearly a decade between that album and Last Splash, and especially since Kim Deal was occupied with the Pixies reunion for a couple of those years. Mountain Battles sounds like progress, too: while all Breeders albums have, in varying proportions, a mix of whip-smart pop songs, droning rockers, and experimental tangents, the blend of these sounds hasn't sounded this satisfying since the Pod days. Deal and crew aren't making a big pop push à la Last Splash, and they don't sound as defiant as they did on Title TK — but, as on that album, Mountain Battles feels like the band are doing exactly what they want and not worrying too much about what anyone else thinks about it. "It's the Love," the song most like the Breeders' quintessential sweet-but-tart punk-pop, is actually a cover of fellow Dayton band the Tasties, and Kim's delivery is so cheeky that it almost feels like she's affectionately sending up that sound. "It's the Love" is placed next to the album's oddest song, which happens to be the title track and finale: full of murky keyboards and a melody that plays hide-and-seek, "Mountain Battles" sounds unfinished and unsettling. Yet there are a lot of other sounds between those extremes, including "Bang On"'s distorted drums and witty guitars, which prove that Deal is still as skilled at pop collages as she was during "Cannonball"'s heyday; "German Studies" and "Walk it Off" should also please Last Splash fans craving more of Deal's sassy pop. However, the flirty, slow-dance cover of "Regalame Esta Noche," which shows off the pure beauty of her voice; the percussive, call-and-response jam "Istanbul," and "Here No More," a country number so simple and effortless it feels like it could be a cover, make Mountain Battles eclectic and even a bit daring. Deal's willingness to let the album's songs take their own paths is even more daring; from "Overglazed"'s impressionistic rock, which opens Mountain Battles with stampeding drums and cascading vocals, to the wandering, surf-tinged ballad "Night of Joy," many tracks feel open-ended and sometimes downright elusive. But, even if "Spark" remains little more than a moody sketch and "We're Gonna Rise" moves as slowly as dust turning in a sunbeam, they add to Mountain Battles' ebb and flow, with each song playing off the other naturally. And, though the album covers a lot of territory — 13 songs in 36 minutes! — it doesn't feel scattered; scattered implies no purpose, but Mountain Battles' songs land, eventually, exactly where they need to.

Customer Reviews

Mountain Magic

It's good to have them back. Less good, less relevant, less fun... but still as magical as ever. Give it a few listens and sink in to their ramshackle ways. They lay on the studio trickery adding new dubby tweaks and fun to their sound without losing their minimalist soul. When I say trickery, it's clearly not some Coldplay super production here - we are talking about Steve Albini and Kim Deal after all. Enjoy.

Uphill Battle

OK, so I'm writing this review after one listen. Always a dangerous thing to do. 'Mountain Battles' has been a long time coming, and unfortunately it disappoints. Ironically, the opener - 'Overglazed' - promises much,the guitars whipping up a lot of froth under the repeated refrain 'I can feel it'. But after this rollicking start the album wanes around tracks 6 and 7 and only momentarily recovers during 'Walk it Off' and perhaps 'It's the Love'. Very patchy. Some of the tracks are actually quite dull (!) An accusation I never thought I could level at The Breeders. The album title track (and closer) is perhaps the worst example of this. Four minutes of turgid, soporofic nonsense. And the Spanish song sung by Kelley just isn't special or ironic enough to merit a place on the album. Hmmm. I have to say it just about merits a 4or5/10 on first listen. It would appear that Breeders haven't aged as well as label mate Kristin Hersh. But maybe it's grower. Now ... where's my copy of 'Learn to Sing Like A Star'.


Don't be put off by this albums hard to crack exterior. Title TK was hardly a walk in the park (yet turned out to be one of their most rewarding). The production is raw, often muddy yet sincere. Give this album your attention, let it grow on you. Forget the high gloss of all the current chart slop and listen to an album grafted out of pure organic surroundings. This album is a grower.


Formed: 1988 in Dayton, OH

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of alternative rock's most promising -- and frustrating -- bands, the Breeders were conceived initially as a way for Pixies bassist Kim Deal and Throwing Muses guitarist Tanya Donelly to let out some suppressed creative energy and to take a break from being the second bananas in each of their main bands. Deal and Donelly both played guitar, leaving bass for Josephine Wiggs of Perfect Disaster. Taking their name from the group Deal led with her twin sister, Kelley, in their teens, the Breeders...
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