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New Splash

Jefferson Jackson Steele
Do You Love Us Now?: Kelley and Kim Deal lead the reincarnated Breeders at the reincarnated Ottobar.

By Bret McCabe | Posted 2/13/2002

The Breeders, The Oranges Band

The Breeders, The Oranges Band

2002-02-13-feedback

When the Deal sisters--the Meg and Jennifer Tilly of indie rock--splashed down in Mobtown on a recent Thursday, people didn't know whether to expect Bullets Over Broadway or Bride of Chucky. Last time anybody bothered to notice, Kelley was getting out of rehab and both Kelley and Kim were involved in lackluster musical projects--the Kelley Deal 6000 and the Amps, respectively, both of which you may have missed if you blinked. Then sometime in 2000, the Breeders--the band Kim formed with Throwing Muses guitarist Tanya Donnelly during those final, ugly days of the Pixies (Bossanova + Trompe le Monde = the shudder heard 'round the world)--played random shows around Los Angeles. Then they moseyed into the studio last year to record with Deal producer-of-choice Steve Albini. And after a long wait, this third Breeders album--the first since 1993--is supposedly coming out this May.

What does it sound like? Nobody knows just yet. But judging from the Breeders' set at the Ottobar--it's probably safe to assume the new songs were those that weren't instantly greeted by raised skinny fists and cheers--new Breeders songs aren't much different from old Breeders songs. And that's a good thing.

Proceeding a bit tentatively at first--the Ottobar stop was only the eighth show of a tour that began Jan. 28 in Albuquerque, N.M.--the Deals soon loosened up enough to charge the Breeders' small but engaging repertoire with a palpable spark. What made the band so bewitching in the early 1990s were its bipolar episodes. Plucky pop hooks got consumed by distorted wails. A melody formed by a simple acoustic guitar strum exploded into dissonant blasts. A happy-go-lucky sing-along was pummeled by percussive punctuation. And over it all, singer/guitarist Kim's child-sweet voice sang tough, off-kilter lyrics about tough, off-kilter women. This angelic-girl charm could splinter into a spine-shattering yelp or soar when singer/guitarist Kelley joined her for a harmonized chorus.

All the pieces fell together surprisingly well onstage. The Breeders--a quintet these days with Jose Medeles on drums and former Fear peers Richard Presley on guitar and Mando Lopez on bass--plowed through the bulk of Last Splash in a little over an hour. Songs with signature opening salvos--"Cannon Ball," "Do You Love Me Now?," "Saints"--were greatly enhanced by the three-guitar lineup, which bulked up the Breeders' sometimes sparse sound with some extra oomph. And the occasional surprise--such as their cover of Nerf Herder's theme for Buffy the Vampire Slayer--prove that the Deals' playful spirit is no worse for the wear that the latter half of the '90s may have dealt them.

Local opener the Oranges Band has a good thing going with its chugging, garage-y pop-rock. Unfortunately, there are more young, zealous, and sincere guitar-powered bands out there bouncing between pop and rock than there are pennies (see the Deathray Davies, the Shins, Q and Not U, the entire Jade Tree catalog). But the Oranges Band distinguishes itself with its crisp pop sensibility, which sounds like a slightly slower, less mad-at-their-parents Hüsker Dü, especially the Grant Hart-penned Dü ditties. (Think "Every Everything" and "Green Eyes" off Flip Your Wig.)

And perhaps the best news of the evening is that a sold-out Ottobar is not a sardine-packed affair. Sure, the new digs recall the old 9:30 Club's three-large-pole room, but thankfully the Ottobar isn't trying to see how many hipsters it can shove into a hot, cramped room. The Breeders filled this space with bodies and a refreshing good vibe. And if the competency and glee that they paraded live is any indication, there may be plenty to look forward to on a new album, should one ever come out.

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