The trouble with Kim Deal being in the Pixies is that it took that much longer for people to realize how vital the Breeders were. At first, Pod can sound slight: The songs fragment more than they cohere, and the recording feels strangely misaligned, like a snapshot where the subject is blurry or set off to the side. Guitarist Tanya Donnelly, who’d met Deal while the Pixies were on tour with Throwing Muses, said the band recorded most of it in their pajamas, and it shows. But as the gaps accrue, you realize how deliberate the music is. Compared to the band’s peers on the cult British label 4AD, the Breeders sounded scrappy, unsophisticated, and distinctly American, steeped in classic rock (“Hellbound”), girl-group sweetness (“Doe,” “Only in 3’s”), and the kind of folksy simplicity (“Fortunately Gone”) that art-rock had by then spent nearly 20 years trying to counteract. But the album’s best songs (“Doe,” “Iris,” “Oh!”) combine that simplicity with a kind of absent-minded mysteriousness that draws you down the carpeted hallways of suburban houses and into their darkened cul-de-sacs, mixing innocence and sex in ways that bypasses the conscious mind. As a teenager growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Kim Deal had been a star cheerleader and honors student who, by her own admission, spent her downtime with local burnouts experimenting with hard drugs. On Pod, you hear both. The album opened up space for a wave of female-centric indie-rock bands that handled feminism not as an overt trait but an embedded one—they were women, and distinctly, but with a sense of ease and irony that made their implicit politics easy to embrace. It also showed that there were still ways to twist somewhat conventional rock music into new shapes with new poetic resonances. (Kurt Cobain was an avowed fan.) But most of all, Pod paved the way for Kim Deal’s strange, charming worldview, leading to a body of music that has comparisons but no real peers. When the Pixies reformed about 20 years later, the band’s lead singer Black Francis joked that all Kim had to do to get the crowd screaming was say hi. On Pod, you find out why.

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