Herald Rating: * * * *
Verdict: Welcome return for band who never reached potential
You could blame Black Francis from the Pixies for the fact that bandmate Kim Deal, the founder of the Breeders, has not been more prolific in a songwriting career spanning more than 30 years.
Perhaps if Francis wasn't such a dominant and controlling songwriting presence in the Pixies more of Deal's songs would have made it on to the band's albums before they split up in 1993.
After hearing Pod, the first Breeders album from 1990, Nirvana's Kurt Cobain said: "I wish Kim was allowed to write more songs for the Pixies."
Deal, generally thought of as the coolest, most fun-loving and biggest drinking Pixie, co-wrote and sang Gigantic, one of the Pixies' greatest songs, and she also penned Silver off Doolittle.
Sadly though, the Breeders, which also includes Deal's twin sister Kelley on guitar, have only released four albums - Pod, the commercial hit Last Splash in 1993, Title TK in 2002 which barely registered, and the latest, Mountain Battles.
Deal also released Pacer in 1995, a cracker of an album with the Amps.
The Breeders' progress has not been helped by Kelley's notorious partying and rehab visits, but the fact remains: Kim Deal has never really reached her potential as a songwriter.
Strange then how you don't expect much from Mountain Battles but after each listen you come away getting more and more warm fuzzies from her wayward and dark tunes.
It opens with Overglazed, a triumphant and stirring arrival with Deal's asthmatic voice at its best.
Elsewhere the poignant and reflective Night of Joy and We're Gonna Rise are countered by songs like Bang On which bounces and bops into life, the bass-heavy breeziness of German Studies, and on the creepy meandering Istanbul the Deal sisters break the silence with a cheerleader chant ("Where ya going? To the city. Where ya going? Istanbul!").
Mountain Battles is off the wall, catchy, and adorable all at once.
The Breeders are taking this album on the road, which, when you've got a party girl problem-child sister like Kelley in your band, is always risky.
Deal's renewed focus might have something to do with the Pixies' reunion in 2004, something fans thought would never happen considering the nasty way it fizzled out.
However, forget focus, because Mountain Battles is anything but focused - in the best possible way - and Deal proves she's one of the best oddball songwriters around.