Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Breeders at Koko

One of our favourite T-shirts is a Breeders shirt that's now kinda old, well it's from their last album Title TK. We do love our indie T-shirts. When we went to Selfridges the other day we did a little swing through the mens fashion department, marvelled at the prices for the designer t-shirts, and I concluded that my favourite items of clothing are old t-shirts that carry some sort of message. But they shouldn't cost much, and there should be some sort of story behind them, or the memory of some gig. Once in the beautiful but curiously largely untouristy university town L'Aquila in the Abruzzo we hung out in a vaguely mixed student dive bar where they made us taste all the different varieties of local grappas (and ended up not charging us) when we got talking to this drunk young dude who was very much taken that we were from the big city in England and gave us the old Lonsdale (London) T-shirt he was wearing and I traded him an old white sun hat with the Lords cricket club logo that I found in Simon's house and that was far too big for his head. Anyway, that tattered grey Lonsdale T-shirt is one of my favourites as well, I still wear it, and I like the story behind it. Other T-shirts seem to have disappeared only to be discovered years later at the bottom of the drawer. Ok, my all time favourite is a handprinted GBV shirt with the artwork from the Vampire on Titus cover that we bought off Pete Jamison at my first "official" GBV show at the Garage back in '99. I still wear that all the time even though i should probably put it into a personal museum as it's almost starting to fall apart now. Fun.

The Breeders-shirt we got is blue and has an image of a blank cassette tape that is only slightly larger than lifelike, on it it says breeders in printed letters and handwritten on it "East Los Mix" referring to the revised lineup for the Title TK album featuring members of the LA punk band Fear and Kim Deals move to East L.A. for a while to record and revise the band. But more often than not I'm not even that aware I'm wearing a Breeders shirt, I just like the vibe of the image, the worn in look of it, and I'm not sure people read what it says too often when they check it out. It's nicely understated just like the Breeders themselves.

I can't say I'm obsessed by them but they've been sticking around quite nicely to my ears. That new album seems a bit slight and unsubstantial at first but it's nice enough, it retains their trademark breeziness, even updates it, and that's exactly what I thought of that Amps record when it came, it also peddled that lo fi sound and low key feel that seemed borrowed a bit from early GBV and has since become a bit of a favourite of mine. Some might say a new Pixies record would have been more interesting, and you know, maybe it will still happen. But sometimes in the middle of the big Pixies reunion tour the Breeders played two shows for the 25th anniversary of their 4AD label, and I managed to attend one of them, and it was pretty great, a retrospective affair, quite a few songs from the Amps record and other older Breeders material, and YES! "Shocker in Gloomtown", a slightly speeded up version, giddy bliss for a minute and a half. It's an old GBV song that the Breeders took under their wing, they used to play it all the time but I think up until these 4AD shows it wasn't in the set anymore. GBV have since taken it back and have performed it at almost every gig since those days. But now that GBV are no more and Bob doesn't come to London anymore either it's left to Kim Deal and the Breeders to bring the Gold Soundz of Dayton back to London town. Or something like that. I probably was the only crazy GBV fan in the room, waving my arms and singing those weird and weirdly uplifting lines of "emotional trash with helium balloons". Anyway, I thought maybe it was just a one-off for the anniversary shows.

Well, the first of two nights at Koko this week retained the retrospective setlist choices, so many happy returns really. The Mountain Battles material fits in nicely with the old stuff anyway. They start with Tipp City, one of the "hits" from the Amps record which sets the tone. About three songs in it's already time for "Shocker in Gloomtown" again. Yes, they kept it! For a split second I thought it was "Cannonball" (I just knew it was a song I knew and loved but couldn't place it for a few seconds, I was maybe a bit dizzy, right?) and wondered why they a) played it so early and b) why people weren't going nuts yet. I wish I could describe how it sounded cos it sounded a bit different than previously, maybe heavier, but still, as if sung by sirens, and, blink and you missed it, pure magic in my book.

There's a pleasing fuzziness in the room and in the music and that voice and the interplay of the twins voices, just like that old T-shirt that you keep wearing and you don't really know why, releasing early 90s memories, songs like "I just want to get along" that seemed a bit slight and throwaway at the time retaining a certain power, bringing you back to places you wouldn't have remembered otherwise. And they play all these songs it seems, some of them I'd almost forgotten but the trip down memory lane is quite a breezy, multicoloured affair, it's a fairly long, laid back and generous set. I've read mixed reviews of the gig but I felt happy and warm and enveloped by that voice and the fuzzy sounds throughout. The only time the happiness crashed a bit was when realizing that the beer prices definitely weren't from the 90s anymore. Koko's cheapest beer is now a can of Fosters for £ 3.70. Shocking, but it least it made me stop drinking as I'd run out of cash that I would have otherwise been tempted to make liquid, and I don't really like it when that takes over at gigs.

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