The Breeders are back! Again. Almost a group of accidental rock-stars, the Breeders have a chequered history stretching back over nearly two decades – dating back to the release of 'Pod' in 1990. Tonight they are on stage to promote 'Mountain Battles', just their fourth record since this glorious beginning. Times have not always been easy for the group. They exist in the shadows of lead-singer Kim Deal's day job – as bass player in the Pixies – and have suffered by comparison. Although, this is a little unfair. The Breeders offer a female perspective on punk, a genuinely unique paradigm. Unusually they do not sacrifice their femininity on stage and ape male postures, but accentuate their nature – giving them a charm and consequent fan base perhaps in excess of that their music warrants.

Tonight, taking stage at the revamped London Koko, their set – drawing from their entire career's repertoire – lacks a little bite. The group are obviously a taught and well researched unit. Their songs are practiced and precise, loud at the correct points and quiet where necessary – closely following the Pixies manifesto. But they can blur on occasion. Few are over two minutes long, and while on record this minimalism can play to their advantage, never letting the listener tire or an idea before moving onto the next, on stage it can be frustrating. No momentum is built, with a single verse and chorus usually all that is in offer before the group abruptly stop and reorganise. While this works for the more popular tracks – 'No Aloha' and 'Le Roi' included – it can dilute the impact of newer numbers.

The crowd, also, is ambivalent at best. There is no energy for anything except the band's acknowledged high-water mark 'Cannonball' – which encapsulates the entire career, and entrance fee, into two minutes – with the audience watching on as though at a wake for the rest of the show. Nobody jumps even an inch for minutes on end, merely staring politely at the stage and clapping at the silences. Luckily this does not feed back to the group, who ply their trade gallantly.

The group are relaxed and at ease while on stage. After a seven year gap since the last record, this is perhaps understandable. The Breeders have always travelled by their own road, and their new album is no different. Years in the making, 'Mountain Battles', has received largely negative press, and the new songs largely sink without trace this evening. A later highlight is, however, when Kim's sister Kelley Deal takes to the microphone for a cover of the Beatle's 'Happiness is a Warm Gun'. First released on the group's first album, the track is a career highlight and live staple, allowing Kelley to demonstrate her cracked, sultry voice at its very best.

The Breeders then, are an illusive and enigmatic band, lacking immediate impact and bite. But their enduring charm, collective ability, and success elsewhere are sure to keep them in the spotlight for years to come.











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Commenting On: KOKO, London, 16/4/2008 - Breeders








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