Hugs and Kisses 53: The Breeders


Photo from McCarren Pool by Sam Horine

Another week, another episode of Hugs and Kisses from Mr. Everett True, author of Nirvana: The Biography (da Capo Press) — one more fucking book about one of the most overrated bands of the Nineties. He has been doing this for us over a year, which is something like a decade in blog years. Send him belated birthday wishes at

Hugs and Kisses

The Relocated Outbursts of Everett True

This week: out on the town

I was watching The Breeders last night.

Here’s what I was thinking. First up, there are some performers where it’s almost impossible to have an off-night: the force of their personalities shines through, whatever happens. Not that I want to be implying The Breeders had an off-night last night (far from it), but for the first 10 or so songs — especially the opening trio, because Kim Deal had quite deliberately chosen to open the set with some new songs, one of which seemed to be all about how she didn’t like to travel — while the set was warming up, I was beginning to think that way. My wife (looking quite beautiful in her leather skirt and tie: and if I’m honest then I was certainly thinking about that) remarked that all The Breeders song seemed quite short,and she was right. But that, as I commented back, is simply because not only does Kim Deal eschew unnecessary instrumentation but she also can’t abide unnecessary noise. Whereas most other bands would’ve kept each song going for another two or three minutes, repeating the same idea over and over, Breeders songs are often truncated (sometimes brutally, it feels), to keep them fresh.

So yeah, I was thinking about my wife’s beauty and the sparseness of the sound.

And then I noticed how ordinary Kim and Kelley Deal are — and this ordinariness is some of what is most charming about them. Sometimes, it can be a little irritating: all the on-off stage banter between the sisters and the technicians is presumably quite fun for the travelling players but a little exclusionary as far as the wide-eyed go. But there again, it’s the charm. Kim treats everyone equally: Jeremy from Florida working the decks, some kid yelling out for ancient favourites, the beery couple behind us talking loudly through all the more poignant moments (“Here No More,” “Regalame Esta Noche”), her sister…I mean, I know it’s standard for bands to tell us that INSERT CITY is the best INSERT CITY they’ve ever been in, but when Kelley Deal lets on that if she was to ever move to the Southern Hemisphere she’d choose Brisbane — and then Kim throws in a comment that Brisbane reminds her of a few cities close to her native Dayton, Ohio — you kind of believe her.

So I was thinking about the ordinariness and the amount of laughter that was coming from the Deal sisters on stage, and how this of course supplies the contradiction that is at the heart of their appeal: the fact that folk so ordinary can create music so magical, so harmonious, so full of lasting grace, that folk in Brisbane show up wearing grunge-era shirts such as Soundgarden and Citizen Dick and “Death to the Pixies” (of course) and clearly think The Breeders are some sort of decayed rock gods on a par with the ones who actually try to be someone special.

And then I thought about how striking my wife is, and how weird we must look together — and resolved to shave my entire beard off, first chance I get.

And then I was thinking about leaving London and Brighton behind, and moving to Brisbane, and how Kim and Kelley were supposed to show up at my leaving party, but didn’t (they had some show or other to play — some excuse!), and about the previous night’s show with Tricky, and how much I missed such casual genius as Tricky and the Deal sisters, being stuck out here, halfway to paradise…

And of course, while all these thought processes were going on, I was bobbing and swaying and shaking my head back and forth, and “Divine Hammer” and “Cannonball” and “It’s The Love” and “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” and all those other signifiers of my adult life were flashing past, and I was realising, How Sweet It Is To Be Here.

Hugs And Kisses Top 5

Five Breeders songs that hold special memories

1. “Drivin’ On 9” (from Last Splash)
This is as good a road song as anything from Daydream Nation.

2. “Istanbul” (from Mountain Battles)
Where we going? To the city! Man, I wish I could wake every morning in Istanbul and shout that!

3. “Divine Hammer” (from Last Splash)
No Breeders list could count itself a Breeders list unless it listed “Divine Hammer.”

4. “Doe” (from Pod)
It’s the one about oral sex.

5. “Here No More” (from Mountain Battles)
Among the jollity and passion, it’s easy to forget quite how plaintive, how poignant the Deal sisters can sound.