Perhaps nowhere is the Breeders’ singularly stilted sound more clearly distilled than in the multitude of cover versions that dot their discography. Here are some favorites.
“Happiness Is a Warm Gun”
Noisy and delicate at once (a lighter’s flick feels as significant as its terrifying drum-charge), the Breeders’ take on the Beatles’ original is eerie and elegant. Crank the volume at the end to hear some choice studio chatter between drummer Britt Walford (also of Slint) and Wiggs: “Josephine, do you think you’re going bald?” “No, you’ve asked me that before, and the answer was ‘No’ then.”
“So Sad About Us”
The Breeders have a way of telegraphing a love of power-pop without fully resigning to it themselves. Case in point: this cover of a jam by the Who, which provided a classic-sounding counterpoint to the tense, oddball beauty of the EP’s title track. It may also be the only Breeders recording with a key change.
“Drivin’ on 9”
“Last Splash” (1993)
A track from part-time Breeder Carrie Bradley’s other band, Ed’s Redeeming Qualities, the loping country-road romance that is “Drivin’ on 9” was both a sore thumb and a standout favorite on “Last Splash.” Watching them in 1994 at the fourth Lollapalooza, I’d never seen a crowd so caught up in playing air violin.
“Shocker in Gloomtown”
“Head to Toe” (1994)
No other band is more qualified to cover fellow Dayton, Ohio, mainstays Guided By Voices than the Breeders. Both bands smash artful abstractions into tried-and-true rock tropes, and this cover of the gem from GBV’s 1993 EP, “The Grand Hour,” made clear that the Breeders could have been a thrillingly above-average crappy garage band.
“Lord of the Thighs”
B-side to “Cannonball” single (1993)
OK, this one isn’t so great, but it is the Breeders covering Aerosmith. Someone out there will love this dearly.