by Rob O'Connor
At 13 songs in less than 37 minutes, Mountain Battles, the first Breeders album since 2002's Title TK, happens quickly and, like their best work, almost isn't happening at all. In the end, it's all a dream, a moment that disappears when exposed to the light. Their most accomplished work has always had a half-finished quality to it, a deliberately sloppy indifference to conventional structure. Instead, they offer quirky, sublime moments where the Deal sisters, Kelly and Kim, harmonize and syncopate in odd measures while the band adds a few spare notes and the songs eventually unravel without ever getting to the point. That's exactly what "Bang On," the second track here, sounds like. And, in varying formulas, it's what the entire album amounts to. It's like someone took Exile on Main Street, removed the root influences and left only the funky weirdness until it could barely walk on its own.
"Night of Joy" chases Parisian pop. "Walk It Off" kicks it up a half-step for a street-walkin' groove. "Regalame Esta Noche" plays it straight as Spanish nightclub pop. "Here No More" heads up to Appalachia for some back porch simplicity. But "German Studies" centers on harmonies sung in, uh, German, while "Istanbul" sounds like the band passed out in the studio and then recorded their slowly waking moments. "No Way," meanwhile, is the sound of an army marching backward, while "It's the Law" is the sound of that same army marching forward with a robotic buzz-saw guitar worthy of Wire. And the title track closes things out with a lost-in-space weirdness that Brian Eno could envision on note cards but could never actualize without the Deal sisters to add their peculiar marks. The entire album sounds like a casual accident where the damage is actually immense. But no one's got insurance, so let's just the fuck out of here before someone gets in trouble.