Happy 25th Anniversary to The Breeders’ second studio album Last Splash, originally released August 31, 1993.
The second album from a band spawned from a side project, The Breeders’ Last Splash is an unlikely candidate for a platinum-selling LP. Kim Deal, along with her sister Kelley, bassist Josephine Wiggs, and drummer Jim Macpherson, created the most formidable iteration of The Breeders. Deal’s answer to her unresolved garage rock desires, the Pixies offshoot left a mark with Last Splash—the follow-up to their 1990 debut Pod—and their all-time biggest single, “Cannonball.”
The opening bassline of “Cannonball” was catchier than anything Deal had done before, a statement she could back up with the assertion that Last Splash had outsold all previous Pixies records (and Frank Black’s solo projects, too). The Breeders’ sharper pop aesthetic fit into the zeitgeist, a slightly more mature companion to the riot grrrl and grunge movements of the early ‘90s. After the messy break-up of the Pixies, Deal was able to put all her effort into her own band, creating a loud manifesto of artistic freedom.
The slow, deliberate start of “Cannonball” feels like friends showing to a party. Everyone is carefully introduced and polite enough, until chaos erupts. At points the track, swinging between swagger and thrash, is indecipherable, lyrics fuzzed past recognition. “I’ll be your whatever you want,” sung in the iconic Kim Deal whisper, is a crystallizing point, a self-aware nod at being an operator in a sleazy industry.
While The Breeders have serious musical chops, as evident from the masterful performances all around, Deal’s singing truly sets them apart. “Invisible Man” has the lusty vocals that can color a song with just a sigh. “I Just Wanna Get Along” is pissed off, the chorus dripping with contempt. “No Aloha” sounds shockingly current 25 years later, and would fit into a new Waxahatchee or Mitski album easily. The contrast of Deal’s girlish sound and punk temperament set off a blessedly long-lasting trend.
The end of Last Splash is where the real feminist gems live. The country twang of “Drivin’ on 9” slyly buries lines like, “Does Daddy have a shotgun? He said he’d never need one,” a wink at those desperate for the women of The Breeders to be younger and sexier. The same sentiment is expressed in a more forward manner on “Hag.” “You’re just like a woman,” is lobbed around with the titular slur, each line sneered and spit out.
The giddy bop of “Divine Hammer” is a bright spot on the album, resplendent with good vibes. The never-ending search for inspiration becomes material for a sweet little pop song, a moment of levity before the hard-rocking instrumental “S.O.S.” Alternatively, “Roi” is a beautiful mess of textures, a smoothed out and shined up Sonic Youth-style noise collage, but without the intellectual heavy lifting.
Certain elements of Last Splash have, in retrospect, outed Kim Deal as a much larger artistic force in the Pixies than originally portrayed. Pixies trademarks appear all over Last Splash, several on “Cannonball” alone. Both the “quiet then loud” pattern and unedited commotion play out with the same drama as “Gigantic” or “Where Is My Mind?” Similarities aside, the effect is never derivative but energetic, like someone excited to get their point across.
Kim Deal understands the pleasure of music, how satisfying a chugging guitar riff or potent basslines can be to the aural palette. Last Splash was a surprising, but not undeserved, success. A stylish music video for an attention-grabbing single (directed by Kim Gordon and a very young Spike Jonze, nonetheless) launched them to MTV-fame. By doing it themselves, the Deal sisters inadvertently positioned themselves as folk heroes to any woman in a band being eclipsed. With Last Splash, they not only moved out from the shadows, they totally changed orbit.