The Breeders had had something of a hit with Last Splash – certainly with Cannonball doing the rounds of hip radio stations and plastered across MTV. And then Kelley Deal – a major junkie – was busted and had to go into rehab.
This meant that Kim Deal had a bunch of leftover songs sitting there. Songs that would have, logically, gone on to back up Last Splash and before that, Pod…so, instead of sitting there, stagnating, Kim decided to record and release the songs.
She formed The Amps – a project that was going to be a solo record. Kim was going to play drums and the guitar and bass parts. The drums would have been a stretch. In the end she drafted in Breeders drummer Jim MacPherson – a good thing given that MacPherson’s playing is one of the highlights of Last Splash. And it’s also the case with Pacer.
Deal ended up forming a full, new band. Luis Lerma (bass) and Nate Farley (guitars) completed the new four piece.
Now, you can get all of this information from Wikipedia, of course. But I just wanted to mention it; a bit of brief context.
So Pacer was released 20 years ago, in 1995. It’s only just turned 20. But it’s unlikely anyone will do a big retro rave piece. I don’t even see it as any sort of retro-listen.
It’s an album I still play. Often.
For some reason, though, Pacer was a total flop. The advance hype and pre-sales indicated something of a buzz; the label would have been hoping for a follow-up to Last Splash. Another Cannonball…
But it was not to be. Despite Tipp City and I Am Decided most certainly giving off a Breeders vibe – and Pacer, the song, definitely close enough to The Breeders too.
Then it’s to Mom’s Drunk – maybe more like Pod than Last Splash and MacPherson’s drumming is fun – in his no-frills way.
Bragging Party is possibly my favourite song in terms of admiring the drumming and the mood it sets up for the tracks.
Well, no-frills is maybe not quite right, but there’s an unorthodox style on display definitely: check out Hoverin’ – it might seem basic, beginner-ish even, but it’s great feel playing. A real stamp on the sound of the band.
We’re halfway through the album now and First Revival probably takes on more of the sound of Throwing Muses than Kim Deal’s two bands before The Amps. But there’s a connection there of course. Tanya Donnelly, the ex-Breeder, was also a member of The Muses and lead Muse Kristin Hersh’s stepsister too. Donnelly had left The Breeders to form Belly.
There’s a slight punk energy to Full on Idle – the sort of punk energy that Pixies often channelled.
Breaking the Split Screen Barrier is one of my favourite songs on the album – starting with what feels like a subversion of the dinosaur-rock false-finishes.
Empty Glasses feels like an instant encore; the song you’d be, pardon the pun, amped to hear when you thought the set was ending.
She’s a Girl, the penultimate track, shoe-horns a bunch of different half-genres into one song and packs a punch for a sub-two-minute ditty. It’s a bit like a Guided by Voices song, which is funny, given that it was head Voice Robert Pollard that thought up the name for Kim Deal’s between-band band. And Amps guitarist Farley and drummer MacPherson would end up as members of GBV.
It sets up for the perfect closer, Dedicated – with a surge of a riff that leaves perfect space for big sloppy-but-tight drums. And like half the songs on the album there’s just the slight feel of subverted surf-rock – you could imagine a parallel universe where the beach bunnies cruised the dunes with Dedicated blasting out. It would be quite cool, I think.
And that’s the album. It’s just over half an hour. Most of the songs barely break two minutes, few make it past three. And it’s got a perfect arc, a perfect flow. It’s a perfect set of songs. It’s the best thing Kim Deal did – as an album, as a project.
And it was swiftly forgotten about: the band folded after a tour and this one album. Kelley Deal came out of rehab and released a couple of albums as The Kelley Deal 6000 before meeting back up, musically, with her twin, rekindling The Breeders name; good for reunion shows to play the hits off the first two albums, not so special in terms of new songs.
The last great songs Kim Deal wrote are here.
And I guess I was busy listening to this album a lot – instead of this.
And I still listen to it a heap. So I’ve linked to every song for those of you who haven’t heard it – you might want to check it out. Or a bit of a nostalgic nod-along for those of you who had the album and have misplaced it; who heard one or two songs but never picked up the record…
And that’s all this blog-post wants to say. Did any of you hear Pacer and love it? Were any of you fans of The Amps? Or did you miss them completely? Maybe you heard the album and thought not much of it. What are your thoughts on Pacer by The Amps?