Last Splash (4 AD/Elektra)
The Breeders

By Bob Bahr

Across America, there are probably musicians listening to Last Splash and shaking their heads.

The lyrics on the Breeders' latest record range from precious to casually tossed-off non sequiturs. And that guitar at the beginning of "Cannonball?" It sounds like a fax machine squalling through a phone. At several points in "Divine Hammer" and "Saints," the bass and the guitar are on opposite sides of the tonal fence. The compositions seem determinedly disjointed.

How could such a casual record become a major-label release, when the record companies send material from young bands back with an implied admonition to tighten up? How is this fair?

The answers, my friend, are blowing in the wind. Judging from Last Splash, the Breeders succeed with a strong vision and sheer personality, and little else. The crunching guitars fit the context of today's hip alternative, and riot grrrls are on the rise, but even accounting for timeliness, this is one record that justifies the grumbling of a thousand unsigned bands.

Which is not to say that Last Splash isn't a good record. "Divine Hammer," aside from some unremedied musical flaws, is a cunning bit of hook-and-crash rock. "Do You Love Me Now?" is a heavy, dragging X-like valentine with vocals so disarming you become suspicious of their guilelessness. "No Aloha's" twangy guitar piques the ear until the feminist dirge smashes into a thrashy uptempo showcase for drummer Jim MacPherson.

"Cannonball" sounds too much like guitarist Kim Deal's last band, the Pixies, but the following song, "Invisible Man," illustrates where the Breeders took a left turn beyond the Pixies' DIY road sign. "Roi" veers off into Sonic Youth-style chaos with a hint of My Bloody Valentine neurosis, plunging the listener into Deal's sound-world of guitars and obtusely provocative lyrics ("Raw: where the shot leaves me gagging for the arrow").

Last Splash, with its willful looseness and self-indulgence (check the Breeders' wicked stab at country, "Drivin' on 9"), is a trophy for their freedom of expression. This is a good underground record. The fact that it's on Elektra is further evidence that alternative rock has invaded mainstream ground. And in this case, the music remains stubbornly uncompromising.