ANY DISCUSSION of what constitutes The Breeders finest hour will always, and only ever, really consider one of two possible answers - the mega selling Last Splash (1993 ), or its unhinged older sister, Pod (1990 ).
I firmly adhere to the latter, which probably explains why I feel so well disposed to this, their fifth release. So, while it was recorded by the Last Splash line-up of Kim and Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs and Jim MacPherson, in terms of feel, atmosphere, and songcraft, All Nerve is more a kindred spirit to Pod.
Like Pod, Steve Albini was involved in the production, and it also has something of that album's raw, dark, and disturbed energy - witness the sludgy, doom laden bass which underpins 'Skinhead #2', the music's tension and release, its sense of foreboding, and lyrics conjuring up a desolate, post-apocalyptic wasteland: "I need spit to crunch these beetles on my lips". Tension and nervous energy also propel the stop/start riffs and chords of 'Wait In The Car', as well as the echoing, unsettling, guitar lines of 'MetaGoth', which float over rhythms which induce in the imagination pictures of an uneasy, restless, sea.
At times All Nerve feels like the 1990s never ended, but The Breeders have long specialised in alternative rock that is, or at least close to, the genre's darkest and most sinister, and they possess a signature sound which is theirs alone. It is not quite at the level of Pod or Last Splash, but it's quality is undeniable and few bands their vintage can still manage to produce something this good.