The Breeders
Photo: Kevin Westenberg / Grandstand Media

The Breeders’ Long-Beloved ‘Last Splash’ Is Re-Issued Again

It’s too bad these new songs weren’t parlayed into the bulging bag of goodies that was the 20th-anniversary re-release of the Breeders’ Last Splash.

Last Splash (30th Anniversary Original Analog Edition)
The Breeders
22 September 2023

This is not the first time the Breeders‘ second album has received the anniversary treatment. Ten years ago, the 4AD label unleashed LSXX, a box set chocked full of rare and out-of-print tracks, including the Head to Toe EP and the in-concert album Live in Stockholm 1994 in its entirety. It gave listeners an extra 45 songs to soak up, spread across an extra six pieces of vinyl. There were covers of Aerosmith, Guided By Voices, the Who, Sebadoh, and Hank Williams. Together, the LP’s early demos and the Safari EP gave obsessives a glimpse into what the band was up to in the year prior to the album’s release, and the Stockholm gig combined with tracks recorded at the BBC finds the band riding high on the record’s success.

Fast forward ten years, and 4AD has given us Last Splash (30th Anniversary Original Analog Edition). So what has changed? Well, for one thing, all those extras are gone. In their place are two new tracks, adding a whopping five minutes to the run time. The cover art looks slightly different, featuring Vaughan Oliver’s dark, blurry take on the Chris Bigg original that imposes the heart over the photo of the Breeders riding together in a car. Instead of putting the 44 minutes of music on one piece of vinyl, the band (or label?) opted to lay everything across two discs to be played at 45 RPM. And that’s about it.

The grade of this review will not reflect the way Last Splash sounded in 1993. We’ve all had 30 years to contemplate that, so there’s really no need to sell you on the original album. Rather, this grade will reflect the overall value of this package as it is presented to Breeders collectibles in 2023. For them, is it worth yet another purchase? On the one hand, it’s tempting to look at this as just another shakedown dressed up as a lovingly reverential reissue. But on the other hand, there’s a recently unearthed two-minute nugget that’ll at least keep your cynicism in check, if not dispel it completely. The story of how that song came about adds another dimension to the package’s novelty.

Last Splash (30th Anniversary Original Analog Edition) is remastered from the original master tapes, which were previously believed to have been lost. While LSXX probably had to rely on a secondary source for its remaster, this new edition returns to the analog tapes used in Last Splash’s recording sessions. It was upon the discovery of these tapes that the band discovered two forgotten tracks.

The first, “Go Man Go”, was co-written by Breeders frontwoman Kim Deal and her old Pixies bandmate Frank Black. In true Breeders fashion, the band goes through a wide range of dynamics in two minutes, starting with Kim Deal’s quiet spoken word introduction: “At parade rest / The fathers / Will be driving home.” Then comes the crunch. The grinding guitars that helped define the 1990s sound come barging in with the rest of the group as the lyrics take a turn: “And I’ll be leaving here too / March on soldier / I’m your Queen / The ambassadress / Of beauty I’m told.” As Deal harmonizes with her twin sister Kelley on the song’s title, one finds it difficult to believe that there wasn’t room on the album for “Go Man Go”.

After that comes “Divine Mascis”, a recording of Dinosaur Jr.‘s frontman J. Mascis singing the Last Splash’s second single, “Divine Hammer”. For whatever reason, the Breeders re-recorded the backing tracks for this rendition, lowering the key and slowing the tempo slightly. Instead of retaining the bright and sparkling sheen of “Divine Hammer” that we’re all used to, this one sounds closer to Doolittle-era Pixies. Even the sound of the electric guitars has changed, altering the nature of the song to a sludgy cover. That wouldn’t be so much of a distraction by itself, but Mascis has to sing in that disinterested croak for which he is known. It is not an improvement on the original.

That’s it for the added perks of Last Splash (30th Anniversary Original Analog Edition). After the comprehensive set that fans received ten years ago, it feels more than a little anticlimactic. But the Breeders’ misbegotten collaboration with Mascis does nothing to undermine the album, which remains as great as ever. Last Splash has held up quite well for a record that accidentally introduced Dayton-based lo-fi to the Billboard charts only to become certified platinum in the United States.

“Divine Hammer”, the breakout hit “Cannonball”, and their cover of Ed’s Redeeming Qualities’ “Drivin’ on 9” were all a great deal more accessible than any originals from their debut Pod. Conversely, “Mad Lucas” and “Roi”, the two longest tracks on Last Splash, were less accessible than anything from Pod. Even the opening song, “New Year”, was pretty weird, sounding like several noisy ideas stapled together over unintelligible lyrics. Thanks to the success of Last Splash, the Breeders were able to confound audiences on a whole new scale.

All in all, Last Splash (30th Anniversary Original Analog Edition) comes only lightly recommended. It’s too bad these new songs weren’t parlayed into the bulging bag of goodies that was the 20th-anniversary package, but those are the breaks. So go forth and enjoy “Go Man Go”. Anything after that is up to you.

RATING 6 / 10