It’s only their fourth album in 18 years but Kim and Kelley Deal remain defiantly nonchalant

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The Breeders – Mountain Battles
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Breeders albums are like country buses: you wait a really, long time for one, and when it does finally turn up, the vehicle is so battered, and the driver so laid-back, you wonder how it ever got there at all. It took the Deal twins nine years to follow grunge-pop classic Last Splash with the sweet but flimsy Title TK. Now they’ve frittered away another six summers on Mountain Battles.

At least they’ve got better excuses this time. Kim spent two years on tour with the reformed Pixies, penning their only new song “Bam Thwok”. Kelley has long since swapped heroin needles for knitting needles, and has a book of rock-themed knitting patterns coming out later this year.

They certainly haven’t spent time auditioning string players or mastering Pro Tools. Mountain Battles is marginally more polished than Title TK but it still sounds as if it was recorded in one take in Steve Albini’s toilet. A good thing, as it turns out. The intimacy of is what makes it precious.

Electrifying reverb-drenched opener “Overglazed” is a red herring. What follows is a miscellany of pithy, lo-fi curios: one song in German (the lurching, riffy “German Studies”), another in Spanish (“Regalame Esta Noche”, an old Latin bolero, sung beautifully by Kelley), and several which are barely there at all. “Istanbul” is built from swampy, Arabesque organ loops, a glowering bassline, eerie vocal chants and an ominous rhythm, like someone rattling twigs against the bars of a cage. It’s bizarre and brilliant.

As always, the sweetly menacing harmonies of the Deal twins pull everything together. They’re mesmerising on “Night Of Joy”, whose fairytale fragility is a quality more commonly associated with their former Breeders cohort Tanya Donnelly. Even better is the drowsy 6/8 waltz “We’re Gonna Rise” where Kim sings “”. It’s the credo that’s been guiding the Deals for 46 years, and there’s no reason for them to abandon it now.

SAM RICHARDS

UNCUT Q&A WITH: KIM DEAL
The album feels very sparing and intimate. Is that the intention?

A lot of people have said that the album is minimal, but I don’t agree. There are four people in the band, all playing at once. I think it’s because people are used to the fake denseness of digital music.

How did you come to cover Regalame Esta Noche?

I head it on the jukebox in a bar called El Capiro. It’s the one place in East LA where you can still smoke because it’s directly across the street from the Sheriff’s Department. All the detectives are in there smoking. I got Mando Lopez, our bass player, to translate the song for me. “” – that bit’s really nice, but then there’s lots of metaphors that don’t translate well, so we kept it in Spanish.

You do a song in German too. Can you speak three languages now?

No, I can’t speak shit!

INTERVIEW: SAM RICHARDS