Anyone who still clings to standard clichés about female rock bands can get an education from the Breeders. They don’t play cute, bouncy songs, wear skimpy outfits or tease a single hair. Their music is too smart and precise for the heavy-metal crowd, too rough for little-girl fans. No wonder Breeder leader Kim Deal has kiddingly described her band as “the Bangles from Hell.”
The Breeders drop all affectations and cut through gender boundaries with fine, self-assured music. Their debut album offers an ample supply of snarling guitars topped by Deal’s husky, expressive singing. Nearly every song holds a musical surprise: A raging lead guitar supersedes a taut, slow bass line, or a straightforward detail jumps out of Deal’s otherwise strange lyrics.
Forget the dainty love ballads of so many girl groups. Deal tells dreamlike stories from skewed perspectives, with vague, sometimes shocking references to sex and drugs. She also includes a rugged version of “Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” one of the least gentle numbers she could borrow from the Beatles repertoire.
Deal, who plays bass with the fine Boston band the Pixies, formed the Breeders as a side project with some alternative rock colleagues: guitarist Tanya Donelly of Throwing Muses, bass player Josephine Wiggs, formerly of the Perfect Disaster, and drummer Shannon Doughton, the Breeders’ only male member.
If Deal seems to play a background role with the Pixies, she contributes to the intensity of that band’s music and translates a similar style into several songs she wrote for her new group. Chalk it up to talent or nurturance, but the Breeders have given birth to an impressive debut release. (Rough Trade/4AD)