In 1993, Kim Deal, off the break-up of seminal indie-rock outfit Pixies, having previously teamed up with her twin sister Kelley, bassist Josephine Wiggs, and drummer Jim Macpherson as The Breeders, put out the iconic Last Splash. A huge hit in the early nineties alt-rock boom, with its iconic single “Cannonball”, it was one of the greatest celebrations of that era. Unfortunately, rehab and new line-ups make the ensuing two decades much more difficult, but in 2013 the ‘classic’ line-up reunited behind the twentieth anniversary of Last. A new record followed five years later, All Nerve (QRO review), and this year the group is touring Last’s thirtieth anniversary, coming to Brooklyn’s classy Kings Theatre (QRO venue review) on Saturday, September 23rd.
For a record that’s old enough to be a U.S. senator, the age range of the crowd was surprisingly wide, from young folks to those who were young folks when Last Splash first came out. But perhaps not too surprising, as the ever-so-enjoyable album has been connecting with youthful fun for three decades now, losing none of its charm & power. That’s true from the opening “New Year” (ironically also the name of the first track of the celebrating-20th-anniversary-with-tour Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie – QRO live review days before) to the closing reprise of “Roi” (Kim joked that it was the British influence of Wiggs that got the band to do something as fancy as a “reprise”…).
Playing Last Splash front-to-back meant that hit single “Cannonball” was the second song of the night, not saved for later like artists usually do with their forever-biggest hit. Maybe not great if you got there late or were stuck on line for drinks, but really fun to see Kim get on her distorted second mike so early in the evening. And it’s not like the rest of the record is a slouch – indeed, it’s the rare release where instrumentals like “Roi” and “Flipside” are as fun as anything where someone sings.
And the band was having fun as well. For “No Aloha”, Wiggs and Macpherson switched instruments as they did on the album, the usual drummer taking the opportunity in its extended middle bridge to egg on the crowd – and there were even bubbles in the air. After “Flipside” – “We’ve finished side one” – Kelley took up lead vocals for “I Just Wanna Get Along”, joking, “Now it’s Kelley’s time to shine!” Wiggs replied, “Kelley, I think you always shine…” There was actually a bit of a pause before Kelley sang, which Kim described as like back when you would have to get up off the couch and flip the record, but Kelley admitted was actually killing time to keep Macpherson from cramping after the (appropriately named) “Flipside”.
The group also took times out to put on spotlight on touring member Sophie Galpin, such as after noting the Wiggs-Macpherson switch for “No Aloha”, “And Sophie’s gonna be weird, too…”. The multi-instrumentalist was put in the back row with the drums, but was not only properly introduced before “Drivin’ On 9”, but even got to come up to the front for her violin solo.
Of course, if a record ain’t some double-album monstrosity, it’s not long enough for a whole show, so after a short break following that reprise, The Breeders returned – and with an even older song, Pixies’ Kim-sung “Gigantic”. Kim Deal’s departure from that band was cloudy both the first time back when and after their trend-starting twenty-first century reunion (from which she reformed The Breeders), her disputes with fellow frontperson Black Francis the stuff of alternative music lore, so it was great to hear her reclaim her legacy from back then.
Admittedly, everything The Breeders have done since Last Splash has not matched it, so after “Gigantic” the more recent material just couldn’t be as good. Still, there was at least a Wiggs-sung piece, the shy bassist adding, “I would say that it’s my time to shine, but I’m not the shiniest. I have other attributes…” And the band did a second encore with three tracks off of pre-Last debut Pod, “Safari”, “Iris”, and “Fortunately Gone”.
Much of the past should be left in the past, even the good bits, for living in the past is an easy way to get stuck there, but there are shining examples that are just as great now. Art has a way of doing that, albums in particular, and it’s never a bad time to take another Last Splash.