Mission: Immersion 9.0 – Pacer by The Amps

Elektra 1995

I picked up this special Record Store Day release becuase I love Kim Deal. To be a real music geek, it’s almost required – Deal played major roles in the Pixies and the Breeders, two of the most important rock bands of the late-twentieth century. For a music aficionado to say they don’t like her would almost be akin to a math genius saying they don’t like the Pythgorean Theorem. Deal is that important to modern rock music – she brings equal parts fun, brilliance and chaos to her tunes, all wrought with an originality of spirit that is the key to her standout approach.

Pacer was released in between the Breeder’s breakout album (1993’s Last Splash) and their break-the-mold album (2002’s Title TK). The latter was widely disappointing and confusing for fans who discovered the band through Splash, but many long-time fans hail TK as a masterpiece. It’s too bad that Pacer was relelased under a different band name (Deal didn’t want to use Breeders since no other original members were featured on Pacer), because it could have helped to bridge this gap for listeners. Listening to Splash and TK back to back presents quite a hard cutoff – they almost sound like they were recorded by two different bands, and to be fair, the albums were released almost ten years apart. Had Pacer been the Breeders’ follow-up to Splash, it would have given newer fans more of a clue not only to what direction they were heading in for TK, but what the band was really all about to begin with. “Cannonball” is a great song, but it’s not a definitive Breeders track – it’s way catchier and way less experiemental than almost anything they have done. That’s why Pacer could have been such a happy medium – it boasts a good chunk of catchy tunes, as well as the no holds barred experimentation hardcore Breeders fans have come to know and love.

Beyond that, Pacer is a damn good record. There are some aspects of the album that seem, well, uncomfortable during initial listens – random tempo changes, odd sound effects and recording techniques, and strange, lo-fi-psychedelia permeate the album. People have claimed that Deal gets off on alienating her listeners, but I completely disagree. What she gets off on is doing things her way, and she knows there are lots of people out there who really dig “her way”. She probably feels lucky to have anyone like that at all, and simply doesn’t want to compromise what she wants (and obviously, what they want) for something millions of other random people who couldn’t care less about the next Breeders album would want. It’s almost as if Deal treats herself and her musical exploits like a secret club, with her own little Dealster members. (She’s like the original Lady Gaga! I’m kidding, of course…but only partially.) If that’s the case, I say jolly damn good show, Ms. Deal, especially since you made a more than worthy follow up to one Breeders album and put another band’s name on it only to put out your next album – your most challenging one to date – as the Breeders. That takes balls, and you just KNOW her record company was not happy with this decision. And she probably loved that!

Let’s set all that nonsense aside and talk about the tunes, though. There is no “Cannonball”, but none of these songs are starving for a good, sing-able Deal melody (except for the uber-experimental psychedelic tune “Hoverin'” which, though it sounds as if the band is just messing around in the studio, was recorded by the Breeders a couple years earlier). “Breaking the Split Screen Barrier” is the song that best combines Deal’s knack for great melody and her stubborn experimental ways, and “Bragging Party” (which was also released as a special 7″ last Record Store Day), with it’s single potential, proves Deal didn’t take the experimental approach for a lack of great ideas. I also love the fact that Pacer contains a song co-written with fellow Daytonite Robert Pollard (of Guided by Voices) – technically two songs, but Deal combined them into one, “I Am Decided”. Pollard gave them as a gift to Deal as a gesture of thanks in return for her producing a couple GBV sessions (which would end up on my favorite GBV album Under the Bushes, Under the Stars). It definitely makes sense to me why Pollard and Deal get along – they both seem to put all their energy into making their songs as weird as possible, since writing great ones just seems to come naturally. ***1/2

Listening Again? Yes

Two videos were made for the album, one for the title track and one for “Tipp City”…

…but I like these songs better.

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3 Responses to “Mission: Immersion 9.0 – Pacer by The Amps”

  1. val wolf Says:

    Thank you for this article. I couldn’t agree with you more: ‘Pacer’ is a damn good record and a welcome relief from the overproduced polished, pathetic stuff that is so omnipresent today.

    Kim Deal is so very versatile in her song writing—she makes the imperfect perfect. I love her.

  2. ianbalentine Says:

    Hey, thanks for subscribing to my blog posts! You are welcome anytime! I’ll post a link to your site, as anyone who KNOWS that the Alice Cooper BAND were great (as opposed to Cooper’s solo stuff which was spotty at best) is all right in my book!

    Uncle E

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