Breeders Credit: Marisa Gesualdi

Revisiting the two albums the Breeders made with drummer Jose Medeles and bassist Mando Lopez, 2002’s Title TK and 2008’s Mountain Battles, I realized I desperately wanted them to be better than they were—I hoped with futility that sisters Kim and Kelley Deal could reclaim the genius of their 1993 masterpiece, Last Splash, and its hit single “Cannonball.” A few years ago they repaired the schism with drummer Jim Macpherson and bassist Josephine Wiggs that ruptured the lineup responsible for that record, and in March the Breeders released a new album, All Nerve (4AD), which also falls short of Last Splash. Of course, the Deals’ arresting harmonies, weird dynamics, and gorgeous melodies have made everything they’ve done together worth hearing, and they sound stronger here than they have in decades—years sober and reunited with that agile yet off-kilter rhythm section, which seems to understand Kim’s knack for messy brilliance in a way no one else has. For beauty or emotional impact, few songs can match the title track, where the Deals sing of romantic longing in a way that cuts right to the heart of vulnerability: there’s a delicious ambiguity when Kim avers, “I won’t stop / I will run you down / I’m all nerve,” either assured or petrified. On the other hand, the Breeders’ lyrics have often been secondary to their sound, which Kim seems to admit on the deliriously herky-jerky “Wait in the Car”: “Consider, I always struggle with the right word / Meow, meow, meow.” Only “MetaGoth,” which recalls the early spirit of the band’s longtime label with its descending licks and a faux-British accent, falls flat. Plus, a song as good as “Cannonball” is a once-in-a-lifetime creation—even with that measuring stick it’s hard to complain.   v