The Breeders + Belly: Last Star (The Imaginary 1993 Record)

Time for another imaginary album. The last time I combined two artists' contemporaneous releases into a unified piece (Flaming Lips & Mercury Rev), it came out pretty damn great, so I thought I'd try another.

I recently wrote up some songs from Kim Deal and Tanya Donelly on my Top 1000, and it got me thinking--prompted by a comment from a Twitter friend--about what would have happened if Donelly had stuck around in the Breeders for another album, and they'd decided to split songwriting/singing duties. Here's the imagined result.

When Deal & Donelly first founded the Breeders side-project, it seemed like a perfect fit. Both were playing in some of the most significant, groundbreaking Boston indie bands (the Pixies and Throwing Muses, respectively), but were relegated to infrequent contributions. (Thus both making it onto my Second Bananas mix!) And the Breeders' first album, 1990's Pod, turned out pretty great. Unfortunately (well, not for the album itself, but for Donelly), it was largely a Deal showpiece, with Kim writing and singing most of the songs. So it wasn't entirely unexpected when Tanya splintered off to start her own band, Belly.

Both the Breeders (with Kim's twin sister Kelley taking Donelly's slot) and Belly released albums in 1993. Each featured some incredibly catchy and surprisingly popular singles ("Canonball" & "Divine Hammer"; "Feed The Tree" and "Gepetto"), winning them a lot more commercial success than they'd seen with their prior bands. But both albums, IMHO, included some inconsistent material that doesn't hold up as well as the standout tracks.

So this little project imagines the two of them recording a record together, this time in a true partnership--merging the best material from the Breeders' Last Splash and Belly's Star into Donelly-Deal Overdrive's Last Star

I mostly cherry-picked my favorite songs from the two albums, with a few exceptions. I included a contemporaneous b-side cover song from each (the Breeders' cover of Sebadoh's "The Freed Pig,"  Belly's cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?"); substituted an earlier EP version of the Breeders' "Do You Love Me Now" (which is better than the album version, and is the one song on the mix to include both Kim & Tanya); and substituted Belly's full-band version of the Star title track (inexplicably relegated to a b-side) in place of the stripped down version on the original album.

Is it awesome? You bet. While not sharing the same producer (as was the case for the afore-referenced Flaming Lips/Mercury Rev mash-up), the records sound strikingly similar, not just in terms of the musical styles, but the at-times murky grunge-era production that intermittently breaks free into a bright, shiny, radio-ready pop sheen. And Deal's sultry vocals alternated with Donelly's more expressive dynamics makes for a compelling juxtaposition.

Here's the Spotify version. (Alas, the Sebadoh cover doesn't stream, so I used the surf-rock instrumental "Flipside" from Last Splash instead.)