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New Deal

The Breeders are back -- sort of

by Matt Ashare

[Kim Deal] "Go `Firestarter' go!", cheers Kim Deal before making a sound similar to the one Homer Simpson emits when he finds a doughnut between his couch cushions. She's referring to the hit single that's elevated Prodigy to the top of the techno pops in England, a song that contains a big enough chunk sampled from a Breeders tune ("S.O.S.," from Last Splash) to give Deal a nice slice of the royalty pie. So "Go `Firestarter' go" it is -- woo-hoo! -- even if the new electronic music revolution ain't exactly Deal's cup of tea.

Deal, who's calling from her home in Dayton, has more than "Firestarter" to be happy about right now. Her beloved Breeders are about to re-emerge after a voluntary two-year absence during which twin sister Kelley Deal cleaned up a nasty drug habit and Kim knocked around with a low-key side project called the Amps. But before all of you Breeders fans start whooping it Homer Simpson-style, read on, because this is not going to be the same band who made 1993's Last Splash (4AD/Elektra). In fact, the new Breeders aren't going to seem much different from the Amps of '95 when they hit the stage at the Paradise on March 29, with Kim fronting a band featuring Breeders/Amps drummer Jim MacPherson, Amps bassist Luis Lerma, Amps guitarist Nathan Farley, guitarist Michelle Bodine, and violinist Carrie Bradley (who was on the Breeders' Pod and Last Splash). No Kelley. No Josephine Wiggs.

"I was doing the Amps thing because Kelley and Josephine were tired and I was just waiting for them to come back to the Breeders," Kim explains. "You know some people, and I won't mention any names, have been going around saying, `I can't believe Jim and Kim left Kelley and Josephine to do their own thing,' but that's not how it was. I was just trying to keep myself busy by doing the Amps and keeping it real low-key out of respect for Kelley and Josephine. Then, last May, Josephine told me she didn't want to do the next album. And Kelley's doing her own stuff in St. Paul. So now we can do Breeders songs again and I'll be able to play more than just a half-hour set of Amps songs."

Kelley's "stuff" has included living close to her place of rehab in St. Paul, and staying clean long enough, as Kim proudly reports, to qualify for her "two-year medallion." Wiggs was last spotted fronting the loose and funky Josephine Wiggs Experience, who released a so-so disc on Grand Royal last year. Meanwhile, Kelley started up her own label, Nice, and put out her own surprisingly solid if rather Breeder-esque debut CD with the Kelley Deal 6000 titled Go to the Sugar Altar in '96.

"In her mind I think she thought she'd be ready to rejoin the Breeders," says Kim of her sister. "But she's decided that she can't leave St. Paul right now. It wouldn't be good for her. I know she thought it over really seriously. I don't want to sound like I have a problem with any of this, but in retrospect I wish I'd hired Luis and Nate to fill in for Kelley and Josephine right after we got off of Lollapalooza in 1994. I mean, I love both of them, Kelley and Josephine. Whatever they want to do with their lives is great. But why didn't they just tell me two years ago? I say that in a loving way."

The new Breeders may look like the old Amps, but with the Kelley and Josephine matters settled for now, they'll be free to act and perhaps sound a lot more like a real band. For starters that means "Cannonball," "Invisible Man," and "Divine Hammer" will be back in the set. In the longer run one hopes it will generate, well, something more compelling than the Amps had to offer on Pacer (4AD/Elektra) or in their fun but ultimately mediocre live sets, something more like Last Splash.

"Yeah, I know Pacer wasn't recorded all that well," Kim admits. "I'd really love to re-record some of those songs. I was actually joking with some people about redoing Pacer as the Breeders. Wouldn't that just be the laziest thing? Hell, nobody's heard those songs anyway. I mean, we recently did a couple of shows in Santa Cruz and San Francisco, and people thought the Amps songs were material from the new Breeders album. So maybe I could do a full new Breeders album and then add new versions of `I'm Decided,' `Mom's Drunk,' and `Tipp City' as bonus tracks. Then it wouldn't seem like we were ripping anybody off."

For now Kim's plan is to test out some new songs live before taking the band into the studio this summer.

"You know how it is when you're first in a band, you get a good set list together, you wait until you have enough money, and then you record that set list? That's how I like to do things. If a song is good enough, then we'll do it. And when we get enough songs like that, we'll have a new album."

The guys in Prodigy are waiting.

The Breeders play the Paradise this Saturday, March 29. Call 562-8800.

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