If The Breeders were thought of as indie rock in 1993, when “Cannonball” was all over MTV and Last Splash was speedily going platinum, they’re really indie now. They self-released their latest offering, the four-song EP Fate to Fatal, even posting a video on their website of twin sister-singers Kim and Kelley Deal silk-screening the vinyl album sleeves by hand.
Their Friday night set at the Black Cat was a similarly homespun, unfussy affair, making no apologies for its wobbly pacing or slight duration: 65 minutes, with plenty of momentum-sapping interstitial fumbling. But the individual performances? Perfect in their imperfection, like so much about this band. The sisters’ elfin harmonies and the itchy maelstrom of Kelley’s guitar would home in on the same frequency for two-to-three-minute salvos of buzzing nirvana, collapsing again at the end of each tune. Having already come through town last summer to hawk the newest of their infrequent albums, 2008’s Mountain Battles, the sisters Deal leaned hardest on material from Last Splash. Sixteen years later, sides like “Divine Hammer,” “Saints,” and “Cannonball” remain pretty much unbreakable: No band could be good enough to improve these songs or bad enough to ruin them.
Despite its lack of pomp, the gig was something of an occasion: Original bassist Josephine Wiggs subbed in for her first appearance with the group since 2005. Their current bass player, Mando Lopez, was, said Kim, off witnessing his girlfriend give birth. (“He’s having a bastard sometime tonight!”) As soon as she said it, she and Kelley lit into “No Aloha,” the ghostly droner that declares, “Motherhood means mental freeze.”
That wicked sense of humor only stoked the question of what Kim and Kelley were smiling about all night. The latter, especially, appeared animated in conversation with someone perhaps only she could see and hear. But both sisters who form the nucleus of this brilliant, too oft-interrupted band looked like they knew they were getting away with something, which is how rock and roll ought to look.
This review appears today on Post Rock.