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The Real Deal

 

The Breeders: Title TK

4AD/Elektra, 2002

Rating: 4.0

 

 

Posted: June 1, 2002

By Laurence Station

To understand the new Breeders album, Title TK, it's important to understand All Wave, primary Breeder Kim Deal's current philosophy regarding music. Essentially, All Wave is an attempt to avoid dating sound via the use of digital technology. Analog recording is used throughout the process. No frills, no gimmicks. Granted, the equipment might be the best analog gear in the world, but from opening take to final mastering there's no artificial computer manipulation involved. In Deal's universe, ones and zeroes are simply too definitive to adequately convey the depth of raw feeling she's aiming for, especially on a disc as intently (and intensely) personal as this one. Title TK (journalistic slang for Title to Come) is a rough-hewn, careworn affair. It's an exhausted record, one that manages to impart the feel of travel and meaningless sex, jetlag and disorientation, fueled by uppers and decompressed with downers  --  a zone where there's no center holding things together.

The raunchy, abrasive "Little Fury" kicks things off with Deal and sister Kelley trading off vocal duties as guitarist Richard Presley and bassist Mando Lopez (members of veteran LA punk outfit Fear) and drummer Jose Medeles back them up with a stripped down, pulverizing groove. On the isolated, island-paradise-as-personal-hell "Off You," the background noise is diminished in favor of Deal's cracked, painfully adrift voice seeking someone to lean on and finding no obliging shoulders.

Three tracks -- "The She," "Too Alive" and "Forced to Drive" -- were recorded in 1999, with just Kim and Kelley. Kim played most of the instruments, and her nascent drum work is noticeably erratic and off tempo, especially when contrasted with Jose Medeles' steady hand throughout the remainder of the album. Not surprisingly, these are the sparest, least fleshed out cuts on Title TK. Rather than detract from the album, however, the songs add to the overall mood of despair, reinforcing the sense of a general disconnectedness with any semblance of a normal life.

"Son Of Three" examines the emotional void left in the wake of physically satisfying but ultimately empty hotel-room hook-ups, while the droning "Put on a Side" offers a disquieting look at being zoned out on drugs, unable to find sanctuary from oneself, punctuated by the eerie, repetitive line: "Better I stayed up."

And "Full on Idle," which first appeared on 1995's Pacer (from Deal's band the Amps), is redone in a tighter, tougher manner, adding much needed energy to the record while careful not to denude the deliberately paced tempo.

"Sinister Foxx" proves the climax, as the Deal sisters insistently question the fate of a missing iguana (apparently an inside joke regarding marijuana dealers and their specialized use of terrariums) and the direction their own lives are headed. The only song out of place on this brooding, emotionally strained and jaded gem is the last, "Huffer," a fast, fun, upbeat tune that would have fit in nicely with the aforementioned Amps record, or on the last Breeders effort, 1993's Last Splash. After establishing such a carefully crafted vibe, "Huffer" (despite being a solid cut in its own right) undermines the final effect -- but thankfully, not overly so.

Title TK is a welcome return for Kim Deal, and ranks as her peak artistic statement to date. It's a defiantly anti-commercial album; one built more for cathartic expression than fretting over the amount of units sold. On "London Song" she sings, "I'm leaking pure white noise" and with Title TK she backs up that statement with a record that hearkens the beginning of an All Wave movement more artists might consider latching onto.

 
Deal Him In
Producer/engineer Steve Albini has quite the musical history with Kim Deal. Aside from Title TK, the two worked together on the Pixies' Surfer Rosa (1988), the first Breeders album, Pod (1990), and the Amps' lone effort, Pacer (1995).

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