The Breeders: Last Splash (1993)
When the Breeders recorded their first album, 1990's at times great Pod, singer/songwriter Kim Deal was still with the Pixies and guitarist Tanya Donelly was still with Throwing Muses -- two of the greatest bands of the era -- and it necessarily felt like a side project; the album was brief, and the songs didn't always feel fully formed (in part owing to Steve Albini's characteristically dry and no-frills production). Still, while some of it was ragged, there were also some devastating hooks behind a number of tracks. (And of course Deal's heart-melting vocals, tough and sexy and magnetic.)
By 1993, Deal had left the Pixies and this became her (for the moment) full-time project; as Donelly had gone off and started Belly, Kim's twin sister Kelley joined in her place. Last Splash ups the pop quotient hinted at on Pod, with a far more approachable and radio-friendly sound, but also pushes the more droning, experimental aspects of the debut; while the album was popular, I'm guessing a number of people drawn in by the singles were bemused by the far more difficult deep tracks.
So, "Cannonball." What can I say? It was and remains a fantastic little ditty, from the distinctive bouncy bass line to the shout-along Pixies-like noise-pop chorus. But "Divine Hammer" is, if anything, even catchier, a simpler but totally delightful indie pop track. Other stand-outs include the terrific "Invisible Man," a darker, slower-moving track that slips into a truly catchy chorus; "Do You Love Me Now," a deceptively sweet but murky pop song (personally, I greatly prefer the lighter, faster version they released on the prior year's Safari EP); the summery, anthemic "Saints"; and the unexpectedly breathtaking "Drivin' On 9," an obscure cover which sees Kim wrapping her pipes around an entrancing piece of fiddle-accompanied faux-Americana.
Elsewhere, the album dips into darker territory, with fewer pop flourishes, interesting in spots but taking a bit more work (and signalling the direction Kim would take the band on intermittent future releases, which rarely returned to the flat-out pop sound of "Cannonball" and "Divine Hammer").
The later reissue is pretty key, adding some essential EPs and b-sides (most notably some great Guided by Voices and Sebadoh covers) as well as a live show. (I saw them at the time and, frankly, it was a bit disappointing, both Kim & Kelley seemingly well into their much-publicized drug abuse issues; but the live disc is better than I remember.)
Here's that wonderful "Cannonball" video, the start of everlasting Deal-sister crushes for every straight fanboy on the planet: