Category Archives: Forgotten Flashback

First Splash: Revisiting The Breeders’ Pod

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The-Breeders-Pod

With The Breeders set to release a 20th Anniversary reissue of Last Splash next month, followed by a tour featuring that album’s lineup, little attention has been paid to their debut album, Pod-despite many fans considering it the band’s best.

Originally intended as a side project for The Pixies’ Kim Deal and Throwing Muses’ Tanya Donelly, The Breeders released Pod in 1990, to much critical acclaim. Rounding out the lineup was Josephine Wiggs on bass and Slint’s Britt Walford (billed as Shannon Doughton) on drums. While Deal and Donelly are both credited as the album’s guitarists and vocalists, it is Deal who provides lead vocals, with Donelly supporting her with rich harmonies as well as an occasional background vocal.

Pod starts out with the slow-moving “Glorious.” Despite its triumphant title, the song sets a tone for the early portion of the album, successfully combining a subtle darkness and sensuality accented by Wiggs’ subdued bass line. The shimmering, brooding guitar effects add a piercing intensity otherwise not found in this quiet song.

Next comes “Doe.” While sharing the previous track’s tone, this fellatio-focused tune (“It’s so salty, Timmy”) appropriately features see-sawing sequences of slower and faster tempos, with Donelly closing out the song with breathy background sighs.

Track three is a riveting, dare I say, better version of the Beatles’ “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” Whereas the original version plods along, with each verse sloppily blending into the next, The Breeders successfully make each stanza a carefully-crafted highlight. The momentum slowly builds, leading up to the machine gun-like refrain of “Mother Superior jumped the gun” before gently closing with the titled chorus, sung by Donelly.

“Oh” sees the band slowing down once again and could be the opening track’s sister. Using that vernacular, “Hellbound” would be the distant cousin, as it is easily the closest the band comes to “rocking out.” This fast-paced romp also marks an end to the darker sounds alluded to earlier, but does so without disrupting the overall cohesiveness of the record.

“When I Was a Painter” has a playful feel to it and while not sounding like the Pixies, contains a quiet-loud-quiet exchange, not unlike Deal’s other band. This is followed by “Fortunately Gone,” a catchy pop tune that has ultra-sweet harmonies that could melt a glacier. This short song is also a prime reason the repeat button was invented.

Inevitably when a member of a well-known band forms a side project, their new output will be compared to their old. If  “When I Was A Painter” contains a common format utilized by the Pixies, “Iris” probably comes the closest to sounding like that band-however, not in an annoying fashion.

“Opened” is another uptempo, bass-driven number, drenched with guitar and sprinkled with sparse spoken word verses by Deal.

Not surprisingly “Only In 3’s” is the sole song co-written by Donelly, as it has her Throwing Muses / Belly touch all over it. But make no mistake: while Deal is credited with writing most of Pod‘s material, one can easily hear hints of Donelly’s influence throughout the album. With that in mind, “Lime” sounds a lot like a Throwing Muses ditty, despite being written by Deal.

Metal Man” closes out Pod and holds the distinction of being the weakest song on the album. Co-written by Deal and Wiggs, it is the sprinkles on top, rather than the cherry. In other words, it adds little flavor to what is otherwise a tasty debut from The Breeders.

When the album came out, Karen Schoemer of the New York Times wrote,  “The angular melodies, shattered tempos and screeching dynamics recall elements of each of the women’s full-time bands, but Pod has a smart, innovative edge all its own.”

The Breeders followed up Pod with the Safari EP in 1992. It was their last release to feature Donelly and first to contain Kim’s twin sister, Kelley.

Though Last Splash received greater exposure via alternative radio, MTV and had the benefit of  Kim’s full-time focus after the breakup of the Pixies, Pod was a groundbreaking release. One needs no further proof than to consider recording engineer Steve Albini’s assertion that it is the album he felt he got both the best sound for a band as well as the best performance.

Forgotten Flashback: The Charlatans-Some Friendly

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The charlatans UK - Some friendly-1990

It has been over twenty-two years since The Charlatans (or The Charlatans UK as they are known in the U.S.) released their debut album, Some Friendly. While they received heavy rotation for a few years on MTV’s 120 Minutes and, to a lesser extent, alternative radio stations, the band’s USA impact was short and sweet-much like the songs on the aforementioned release. However, unlike their “Madchester” scene counterparts and media darlings The Stone Roses, The Charlatans have never stopped recording, having released ten albums, five compilations and three live projects since their initial output. The commercial success that has eluded them in the States has been plentiful in the UK, with all eleven albums placing in the Top 40 of the UK Albums Chart.

Relying heavily on acid house dance grooves and catchy organ hooks, Some Friendly starts out with the song, “You’re Not Very Well.” From the onset, lead vocalist Tim Burgess’ carefree vocal delivery manages to command one’s undivided attention as well as evoke an emotional response-all without overshadowing the dreamy Britpop his voice is accompanying. This same blueprint is used on much of the album, detouring momentarily on slower songs such as the experimental “109 Pt.2” and the bass-driven “Flower.” Perhaps their best known song, “The Only One I Know,” borrows the instantly recognizable keyboard and bass riffs from Deep Purple’s “Hush,” but they quickly make it their own without disrespecting the original song.

Though The Charlatans have stated they tackled internal band issues and expressed discontent over the role their inexperience played during the recording sessions, none of these hangups are evident Some two decades later. The cohesive, fetching tracks contained on Some Friendly still measure up favorably (or is that favourably?) to anything their much-heralded contemporaries released during that period or since “Then.”

Some Friendly tidbits:
-Originally released on October 8, 1990, a deluxe edition was released in 2010. This remastered version contains the original album, along with a disc of outtakes, radio sessions and B-sides.
– Lead singer Tim Burgess claims that the album suffered due to hastily being thrown together to “go on there just to make up the numbers.”
-The band also said some songs were overproduced, resulting in tracks such as “White Shirt” and “Polar Bear” having bass lines that were “lost” in the mix.

Original track listing:
1. “You’re Not Very Well”
2. “White Shirt”
3. “The Only One I Know”
4. “Opportunity”
5. “Then”
6. “109 Pt. 2”
7. “Polar Bear”
8. “Believe You Me”
9. “Flower”
10. “Sonic”
11. “Sproston Green”