Question: what do The Breeders, Shetland, and Sultans of Ping FC all have in common?
Answer: yours truly.
Some background – my parents relocated to Shetland when I was 2, as my dad had got a job in the burgeoning oil industry. (Side bar: It was only meant to be for a couple of years, but three grown up children later they’re still there.)
For those of you unfamiliar with Shetland: yes, it’s where the ponies come from; yes, we have electricity, and yes; it really is as close to Norway as it is to the north of Scotland.
In other words, it’s pretty remote.
Growing up / being a teenager in Shetland back in the day meant limited access to music other than traditional music. There was the much-loved (and now much-missed) Clive’s Record Store, which was literally the size of a large cupboard when it opened. Many a school lunch hour was spent looking through the cassette tapes, vinyl bins and shiny CDs with my bestie, trying to decide which albums we’d take a punt on and spend our limited teenage finances on.
Live music was even rarer. Few bands even contemplated venturing that far north – although there have been a few who have made the effort over the years, such as Julian Cope, Idlewild, Pulp, Thousand Yard Stare; and yes, Sultans of Ping FC. (“Where’s Me Jumper?” has achieved something of cult status amongst some of us as a result.)
But then one day my bestie (and Clive’s Records cohort) gave me a CD she’d bought on a whim, and wasn’t really fussed on. “I thought it was maybe more your kind of thing.”
It was a copy of Trompe Le Monde by the Pixies.
That, my friends, was it. I was smitten. I quickly sought out Doolittle, Surfer Rosa and Bossa Nova, and with each listen I knew that this. Was. My. Favourite. Band. Of all time. But my love for Kim Deal was yet to fully form.
Soon I was heading off on the big city adventure that was university; I had opted to go to Strathclyde University in Glasgow, and soon discovered the joys of music venues such as King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, and the beloved Barrowlands. I also made a friend who was into exactly the same music as me. Weirdly, we were the same height, both had dark shoulder length hair, and both called Nicola.
We were both also dating guys with the same name at the same time, but I digress.
One day after a politics lecture (did I mention we also were doing the same course?) we were at her flat when she put on an album I hadn’t heard.
Hearing that opening bass on Cannonball was a life-affirming moment. It didn’t matter to me that Kim Deal was no longer on bass, this was music to love life to.
Fast forward a few (many) years later, and most (all) of my friends know of my love of Kim, and her music.
So here we are. The Breeders are currently touring their latest album All Nerve, which they released in March this year, 10 years after Mountain Battles, their previous album. On first hearing the album (purchased on release day – naturally), it was like being transported back to hearing “Cannonball” (and Last Splash in its entirety) for the first time – feelings of giddiness and joy all wrapped up into a rosy, warm glow. From opening track “Nervous Mary”, straight into the first single “Wait in the Car”, you know you’re in for an absolute treat. My personal favourite album track is “MetaGoth”, with its incredible heavy, in-your-face yet simple bass line (I’ve since found out after watching their NPR Tiny Desk Concert that in fact it’s Kim on bass on that track – go figure).
As happens every single time when I hear the bass start on “Gigantic” (my second favourite Pixies song, FYI), I can’t help but listen to All Nerve with a giant smile on my face.
And I know you will too.