A plethora of female-fronted bands have invaded the indie rock circuit recently. Bands like Best Coast, Cherry Glazerr, and Charly Bliss have been making waves in what feels reminiscent of the early to mid-90s when bands like Hole, Sleater-Kinney and The Breeders were all over college radio. The Breeders consisted of musicians from different bands, most notably Kim Deal, bassist of the Pixies, and brought in a style that was cognizant of the alternative rock sound while flirting, to an extent, with riot grrl themes.
The Breeders released their first album in a decade, All Nerve, on March 2 just in time for International Women’s Day. This release also coincides with the year of the 25th anniversary of their second album, Last Splash, which includes one of the most iconic songs of the ‘90s, “Cannonball” available on Apple Music and Spotify.
The song opens up with some feedback, a mic check and what comes off as a vocal exercise followed by distilled silence. One thing I’ve always appreciated about this era of indie rock is the live recording atmosphere, even if sometimes it was fabricated. Then a little rim tap followed by the iconic bass slide from B up to A and repeats before settling on a transition between B flat and F to set up a groove that is only enhanced by a syncopated drum beat. Layer by layer get tracked; next is the guitar pull off melody which repeats until the grimy power chords come in, and then some more feedback. The foundation is laid for Kim Deal to come in with the vocals.
The song rests on the laurels of the groove established for the verse and then out of nowhere some guitar harmonics – you know, the 90s kind – and some snare blasts transition into the chorus, which elicits some echoing screams – a declaration of “want you coocoo, cannonball.” The song trounces on the territory of the soft verse, loud chorus template that the 90s indie rock scene encompassed but still feels fresh, even to this day 25 years later. It’s what has made the song a staple for movie soundtracks; most notably the beginning of the heist scene in the cheerleader caper comedy Sugar and Spice.
It’s interesting that a song making fun of the Marquis de Sade can have such an influx of energy and excitement and become a staple for not only female-fronted bands but 90s music in general. It’s a testament to Kim Deal’s songwriting and music perspective, something she had been contributing to the Pixies for years prior. Deal is only one of many female musicians who paved the way for the current wave of female-fronted rock bands. She had such an integral part in defining a generation in the 90s that it created shockwaves that are still being felt 25 years later, and for that we’re happy to celebrate her on International Women’s Month.
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