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+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
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+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
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+ Cex - Actual Fucking
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+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
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+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
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The Breeders
Title TK

It strikes me that this review is a bit like the latest release by our favorite twin-sister, hard-livin' band, The Breeders: rather late. (Even the name, publishing jargon for "to come," reinforces the feeling of delayed arrival.) In my case, blame illness and good ol' procrastination. In the case of The Breeders, there are more complex excuses. Still, a welcome return to recorded media shows that the fire's still burning strong in the Deals' metaphorical bong.

In the wake of 1993's phenomenal Last Splash, in which a fickle public managed to catch on to a truly worthy minor-league band's catchiest tune, "Cannonball," and make it a bona-fide radio hit, some weirdness hit the band. Bandleader Kim Deal's twin sis and fellow Breeder, Kelley, was incapacitated by drug-related problems that put her in rehab and out of commission indefinitely. Various other members had peeled off to find their own projects as time ticked away, leaving Kim with a head full of songs and no band.

What followed was, well, pretty much everything Kim Deal could think to do to keep herself busy. An underrated album appeared in 1995 under the just moniker The Amps, followed by a healthy tour of the U.S. and abroad. Dissatisfied with further tries at new band lineups, Kim became so frustrated that she learned to play the damn drums herself and recorded three tracks that ended up on Title TK as-is: "Too Alive," "Forced to Drive," and "The She." Sworn to a fierce analog ethic, Kim and Kelley finally joined up in Austin in 1999 to record again, with Kim playing pretty much all the instruments. The analog philosophy, dubbed "All Wave," led to the natural choice of Steve Albini to produce this new material. A chance meeting with members of legendary L.A. punk band Fear brought much-needed serendipity. Like a flash, Kim and Kelley packed their bags and moved to East L.A., the home of Fear guys Richard Presley (guitar), Mando Lopez (bass) and drummer Andrew Jaimez (later replaced by Jose Medeles), to continue the vibe that would form an indestructible rock 'n' roll force of nature: The Breeders' return.

Title TK is the result of this quest, documenting the potency and offbeat sensibilities of the twins and their new friends. Fortunately, perhaps because of the passage of time, this record bears less resemblance to Last Splash than some might expect. The ever-present 4/4 backbeat and skeletal arrangements of various sounds dropping in and out here and there hark back to Last Splash's predecessor, Pod. There's a lot of empty space in these songs, the better to focus on Kim and Kelley's up-front vocal harmonies and classically off-kilter lyrical ideas.

Another pot reference, echoing the "bong in this reggae song" line from "Cannonball," supplies some continuity, however obscure. In the band-credited song "Sinister Foxx," the repeated lyric "Has anyone seen the iguana?" recalls the notion that pot dealers all have terrariums, ostensibly for a pet iguana, albeit a forever-absent one. Some things never change, and rather than cleaning up completely and denying their nature, The Breeders acknowledge a certain relationship with mind-altering substances that they feel is worth a mention. Anything less just wouldn't be honest.

The Breeders choose to revisit the tune "Full On Idle," last heard on the Amps' self-titled record; the new version is cleaner than the original. In fact, it is among the two or three least distorted songs on the album. Upon reflection, it makes sense that a songwriter like Kim Deal would try out a different vibe from one record to the next. What would be the purpose of duplication? Perhaps the new and returning bandmembers simply couldn't live without the song. They would not be alone. It's satisfying to listen to this track, knowing that the Amps version wielded only half of the Deal twins' collective power. Kelley Deal, a solo artist in her own right, certainly deserves a welcome back into the fold; this jangling second take may be just that.

And it's all "All Wave," all the time. Every bit of processing, every squawk of noise, is the result of the vibrations of vocal cords and various other cords and objects picked up magnetically. Just as Kim wanted it, no foolin' with Pro Tools and beat boxes. The last track, "Huffer," utilizes more or less all the instruments at once in a recognizably "Cannonball" style. The presentation is grand and majestic, a celebration of the purity and power of a the newest old band you've heard in a while. "Da dahs" and "la las" abound from the ladies, who seem simply happy to feel the greatness again.

by Bob Toevs

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