The Breeders with Whispertown 2000 at The Paradise Rock Club in Boston, MA (Monday, August 17, 2009)
Side projects of bands typically grow out of frustrated non-lead members not getting to a chance to showcase their own songs, and The Breeders as a separate effort is no different. What started out as a project of friends (headed by Pixie Kim Deal and Throwing Muser/soon-to-be Belly Tanya Donnelly) soon grew into a real band with a vibrant sound very different from their main bands. After Tanya left, Kim's identical sister Kelley (who with her sister actually comprised the embryonic version of The Breeders back when they were teenagers) was recruited. Where the overall tone of the Pixies is dark and sometimes a sweeping mix of dadaistic/cinematic lyrical content, the Deal sisters throw sunshine and smiles. The packed, sweltering venue was treated to both of those in large doses, as Kim and Kelley were genuinely beaming as they played songs from all The Breeders and Amps records, including the opener "Hoverin'" which featured Kim on snare, smacking out a martial beat to the song that Kim and (ex-?)husband John Murphy wrote together.
Ostensibly touring on the new Fate to Fatal EP, they only played the fine title track, and while the closer 'Pinnacle Hollow' wouldn't likely add much energy to a live show, it's another facet of their sound that is under-populated, a somewhat monochrome lo-fi folk ditty which is quite nice. Instead, the big hits like "Saints" and "Divine Hammer" and of course "Cannonball" were brought out to enthusiastic squeals of delight from the crowd, and they rubbed shoulders with but didn't dominate over songs from the debut ("Iris" featuring a heavy doom riff on bass; the best Beatles' cover ever of "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" and I would have loved to hear "Hellbound") or last year's Mountain Battles (the throbbing "Walk It Off" and the gossamer-delicate "Night Of Joy"). Kim and Kelley also showed their rust belt roots via association with one of the best songwriters in this or any other country, Robert Pollard (Guided By Voices). They didn't play their cover of "Shocker In Gloomtown" but did play "I Am Decided," a song written by Pollard that landed on the over-looked Amps' record Pacer. If there's one lesson that Kim learned from the Pixies, is that a song doesn't need a boatload of diminished seventh chords or intricate time changes- all it needs is a solid bottom end and a melody that wraps around your head like a many-suckered octopus tentacle.
Whispertown 2000 must have blown in straight from the Great Plains, their cornpone delivery and musical hoe-downs just needing a few bales of straw strewn about the stage and some homemade gingham dresses or frayed overalls as clothing to complete the American Gothic vibe. No, the boat shoes or Smiths tee shirts were not convincing. They played musical chairs instrument-wise for a good latter part of the set, only the singer anchored to her mic and guitar. Nice vocal harmonies but the bass was way too prominent in the mix and there wasn't a lot of substance to the songs; after hearing them, it was tough to remember any particular song.
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