Q&A With The Breeders

It’s been six long years since the last Breeders album—2002’s decidedly underwhelming Title TK, which resulted in Elektra dropping them almost immediately following its release—but let no one say that co-founder Kim Deal hasn’t been plenty busy in the interim. The former Mrs. John Murphy rejoined the much-beloved Pixies for one of the most anticipated (and successful) reunions in alt-rock history, penning the band’s 2004 single “Bam Thwok” and spending the next several years playing old favorites and obscurities on a seemingly endless world tour. During various stolen moments on tour and at home, Deal wrote the songs that would eventually become the much-improved Mountain Battles, perhaps the most eclectic body of music she’s recorded to date. Ranging from sophisticated twilight-time pop (“Night Of Joy”) and souped-up Tex-Mex (“Regalame Esta Noche”) to faux-country (“Here No More”) and flat-out, overdriven rawk (“Overglazed”), Mountain Battles zigzags from one stylistic locale to the next without blinking an eye. In the process, the record turns longtime engineer Steve Albini’s bare-bones production work into a virtue and spins Deal’s ADD-afflicted worldview into gold.

MAGNET phoned Deal at her Dayton, Ohio, home and found her in a typically garrulous frame of mind.

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RE-MAKE/RE-MODEL: BECOMING ROXY MUSIC: by Michael Bracewell [Da Capo]

Much more than a straight band bio, this highbrow history of Roxy Music positions itself as a cultural overview of art rock between the Summer of Love and the punk era. Michael Bracewell’s lofty writing style sometimes threatens to collapse Re-Make/Re-Model under its own weight, particularly when detailing Bryan Ferry’s visual-art background. Still, this is likely the definitive history of the Ferry/Brian Eno collective. Bracewell’s deep research and interviews link Roxy Music to Newcastle’s R&B/blues scene, Warhol’s Factory and early-’70s fashion photography. Re-Make includes a generous selection of photos and astutely examines the band’s meticulously designed public persona. [www.perseusbooksgroup.com/dacapo]

—Eric Waggoner

Thurston Moore On Sonic Youth Being Dissed By Juno MacGuff

How do you feel about Sonic Youth’s 1994 cover of the Carpenters’ “Superstar” being called “just noise” in the film Juno?

Every once in a while, you’ll be asked whether your music can be used in a movie. Invariably, we always ask, “What’s the movie about?” Because you don’t want it to be some kind of grotesque film. I didn’t even remember that they’d used the song until I was watching it with my daughter, then I was like, “Oh my god!” [Laughs] When Mark (Jason Bateman) tells Juno (Ellen Page), “Here’s a Sonic Youth song, I think you’ll really like this,” and then he plays the song that’s the least indicative of our music—us covering a Carpenters tune—it’s such an odd choice. It’s also funny that she would be into totally hardcore punk—Iggy, Patti Smith, the Runaways—and then quantify Sonic Youth as “just a bunch of noise.” But I think she was just angry at the guy and trying to get back at him.

THE BLACK KEYS: Attack And Release [Nonesuch]

Ah, the Black Keys. The poor man’s White Stripes, if you will. A cruel, lazy, hackneyed comparison that’s well past its sell-by date? Perhaps, but it’s a conclusion that’s difficult to escape. Almost six years after their debut, the Keys are resolutely sticking to the template laid down by their Detroit cousins: a raw, back-to-basics approach to gutbucket blues and big, bludgeoning, howling riffage that owes an obvious and extremely heavy debt to early Led Zeppelin. Which is all well and good to an extent, and there’s no question that singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney are proficient purveyors of heavy-duty, greased-up garage blues with a ridiculous amount of swagger. Plus, they recorded 2004’s “10 A.M. Automatic,” which remains one of the most insanely wondrous slices of sub-Hendrix skullfuckery ever recorded. Oh, and Auerbach sounds increasingly like a young Paul Rodgers in his Bad Company prime. (No, that isn’t meant as an ironic insult.) The trouble is, it all seems just a little too, well, two-dimensional. Despite the eyebrow-raising choice of Danger Mouse as producer, there’s precious little invention at work on Attack And Release, and the stench of authenticity hangs heavy. Whereas Led Zeppelin and, yes, the White Stripes moved on to experiment and fuck around a little, the Keys seem all too happy to plough the same comfortable furrow. The law of diminishing returns looms larger than ever. [www.nonesuch.com]

—Neil Ferguson

The Billionaires: Summer Nights

When you think about Martha’s Vineyard, you probably picture scalloped frills trimming the wraparound porch, endless summers and gentle salt breezes from the Atlantic. The Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism has seen to that. But for the members of the Billionaires (all year-round Vineyard residents at some point in their lives), the associations are a bit different.

“We mowed those lawns and reshingled those roofs all through high school,” says singer/guitarist Tim Laursen.

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TELL THE TRUTH UNTIL THEY BLEED: Josh Alan Friedman [Backbeat]

This excellent book by the author of 1986’s bestselling Tales Of Times Square collects 15 profiles on various music-biz figures with a concentration on the ’60s and ’70s. Doc Pomus, Jerry Leiber, Joel Dorn, Tommy Shannon, Mose Allison and Dr. John all get Josh Alan Friedman’s unique examination. His treatment of Rahsaan Roland Kirk exposes the saxophonist’s difficult demeanor. “‘Black classical music’ is how [Kirk] termed his jazz, espousing a jazz-victim philosophy, while hating rock and the white man’s music,” writes Friedman. These tales of survivors, casualties, assholes, losers and genuine badasses offer a peek at a time when music was saturated with real personalities. [www.backbeatbooks.com]

—Andrew Earles

SUN KIL MOON: April [Caldo Verde]

One of the key elements that made Sun Kil Moon’s 2003 album Ghosts Of The Great Highway so remarkable was Mark Kozelek’s fallen-angel tenor juxtaposed with a sometimes ugly, sometimes triumphant wall of big, Southern-seasoned guitar. For the LP’s proper follow-up (let’s just pretend the Modest Mouse covers record from 2005 never happened, shall we?), the trick is mostly set aside, meaning April has more in common with the introverted side of Kozelek’s Red House Painters than, say, Crazy Horse. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. At nearly 10 minutes, the gorgeous “Lost Verses” sets the album in motion with Kozelek’s typically stunning eye for lyrical detail backed by a jangling, road-ready acoustic guitar. As lovely as that sounds, April loses momentum under such a reserved approach. While Will Oldham’s ghostly backing vocals add another shade of darkness to “Unlit Hallway,” and the starkly hypnotic “Heron Blue” recalls an Appalachian murder ballad, many otherwise engaging moments get lost in the album’s somewhat monochromatic 74 minutes. It’s difficult not to wish Kozelek’s big blue guitar were given more time to shine. [www.caldoverderecords.com]

—Chris Barton

THE APPLES IN STEREO: Electronic Projects For Musicians [Yep Roc]

Given the Apples In Stereo’s recent return to their shiny happy pop roots, Electronic Projects For Musicians sounds unfocused. But as a fan-pitched compilation of b-sides and one-offs, it’s a winner, stringing antsy, Superchunk-flavored rockers beside fuzzy, romantic declarations, of which 2001’s “On Your Own” and 2002’s powerhouse “Other” are the finest. You can hear the band nod briefly toward psychedelia and power punk, with the more oddball tunes weighted toward the album’s first half. Inconsistency is an unavoidable problem for collections like this, of course, but if the Apples get more slickly produced and groomed as the tracks progress, they also get funnier and more confident. Witness 2000’s howling Gallagher brothers dis “The Oasis”; granted, it’s a little dated, but for some of us, poking fun at Liam and Noel never goes out of style. Bonus Material: Three unreleased tracks: a short, silly “theme song” (from the band’s website), “Stephen Stephen” (written for Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report) and the lovely “Dreams” (an outtake from 1997’s Tone Soul Evolution). [www.yeproc.com]

—Eric Waggoner

PLANTS AND ANIMALS: Parc Avenue [Secret City]

“It takes a good friend to say you’ve got your head up your ass,” sings guitarist/vocalist Warren Spicer. Looking at the freaky friends they’ve assembled for Parc Avenue’s cover shoot, Spicer and his colleagues (drummer Matthew Woodley and multi-instrumentalist Nicolas Basque) were likely egged on to push the boundaries of their folk rock. That means grabbing any instrument they can wrap their fingers around, inviting brass and strings sections and navigating carefully between African grooves, Harvest-era Neil Young backbeats and jam-band territory. It’s not surprising at all when they stop a song cold with a piano coda featuring a seven-year-old boy singing in French or with a choral round accompanied by medieval flutes. For a trio that didn’t play outside of Montreal for the first six years of its existence, Plants And Animals sound like they’re ready to stop noodling around and take on the world. Parc Avenue begins on a bombastic note, with a huge choir leaping out of the speakers a mere 10 bars into the opening track; soon enough, Spicer starts straining and distorting his high notes much in the same way Win Butler does on Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up.” (That band’s Sarah Neufeld provides string arrangements here.) Though Parc Avenue is undeniably epic, Plants And Animals take a casual approach to their sound, stuffing the songs with structural shifts rather than browbeating us with grandiose statements. Lyrically, however, Spicer could stand to make a statement or two; much of his lightweight, rambling narratives don’t survive the spontaneity of the moment he scribbled them down. It’s the only real indicator that Plants And Animals are still emerging from their incubatory period, evolving slowly from their trippy, instrumental origins. [www.secretcityrecords.com]

—Michael Barclay

THE LEMONHEADS: It’s A Shame About Ray (Collector’s Edition) [Rhino]

Garnering gold-record status in the U.S. and even greater sales overseas, It’s A Shame About Ray has nevertheless failed to achieve hallmark status within the ’90s alt-rock canon. Though time has not proven kind to Evan Dando’s musical legacy, this re-examination of Ray might be the first step toward changing that. Released in 1992, a year dominated by grunge behemoths such as Alice In Chains’ Dirt and Stone Temple Pilots’ Core, a Lemon-heads album was an unlikely addition to the modern-rock playlist. Success came via a goofy cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,” a bonus track tacked onto later pressings of Ray after it became a fluke hit single. Ray is more notable for its title track (co-written by Tom Morgan of Australian band Smudge) and “Allison’s Starting To Happen” (a charming ode to pubescent girls). If all this hoopla from a former Winona boy toy now seems antiquated, Ray still sounds remarkably fresh, retaining its bouncy, subdued edge with a sense of humor the Lemonheads’ peers painfully lacked. Bonus Material: B-side “Shaky Ground” and nine Ray demos. A DVD, its contents originally found on 1993 VHS collection Two Weeks In Australia, harkens back to a time when 13-song albums could spawn eight music videos, including one featuring a Johnny Depp cameo. [www.rhino.com]

—Matt Siblo