THE BREEDERS Title TK (4AD)
"Title TK" is the third Breeders album, trailing their previous effort "Last Splash" by a yawning nine years, during which the band's twin Deal sister core have been spotted in The Amps (Kim) and Kelley Deal 6000 (uh Kelley). The product of three years of apparently fraught sessions with alt-rock's Phil Spector figure, Steve Albini, "Title TK" reflects its fractured gestation in the distinctly uncomfortable soundworld it creates.
Here drums sound muffled as if made from cardboard, guitars are fuzzy and keyboards are Farfisa-thin in the approved "Nuggets" style. Strangely, for the most part "Title TK" rejects Kim Deal's heritage as bass player in the Pixies, sounding far more disparate and angular, evoking memories of former Breeder Tanya Donelly's previous band Throwing Muses. The songs are intricately knotted moebius strips of melody, punctuated by the band's deliberately juddering, abrupt performances. At times "Title TK" sounds like the paranoid, bug-eyed funk of early Talking Heads being played at the wrong speed, bringing to mind the slow nerve action of the Flaming Lips song title. And on other occasions there's something almost folky about proceedings, for example the Deal twins' call and response round vocals during "Little Fury". When recognisable phrases surface through the inscrutable lyrical murk, lines like "My bass drum", "I'm leaking pure white noise", "I found speed on the mic" and "Mono" suggest that "Title TK" is a record about the process of making records like no album since Sleater-Kinney's "Dig Me Out". But also, "Title TK" is an album about control: control over its random shards of rhythm, or the magnificent restraint that heightens the impact of moments like the single volley of drums that bursts, Keith Moon-like, from the end of "Put On Aside". "Full On Idle" has a near-rockabilly clatter to it, whilst in this context "Forced To Drive" is a lushly romantic road movie of a song, at least until jarred back to Kansas by the discordant choruses. "Huffer" is the most conventionally Pixiesish thing here, a high-speed garageland slam punk. Towering above the rest of the album, though, is "Off You": flowing along on a blooming acoustic bassline, it's "Starsailor"-era Tim Buckley put through the lo-fi mill, and marvellous.
"Title TK" is a curious album, more of an aesthete's theoretical pleasure than a record coursing with fire, spirit and poetry. It's as carefully assembled and edgily jagged as Vaughan Oliver's exquisite, puzzling sleeve imagery, and whilst it has many upon many small moments, and whilst it sounds taut, wiry and sinewy it also seems to have been already pulled to pieces by Albini's rigorous production methods. Cerebral and caustic, but not much fun.