The Amps represent the essence of Kim Deal. The influential songstress honed her skills in the Pixies and first struck out as a bandleader of her own with the Breeders, making some great albums along the way with both bands. But after the Breeders fell apart for a while (due in part to sis Kelly's heroin addiction), insatiable Kim grabbed a couple local musicians from her hometown of Dayton, Ohio, wrote some great songs, and made a kick-ass little record called Pacer.
Pacer is lo-fi garage pop, somewhat akin to Dayton compadres Guided By Voices ("I Am Decided" was co-written with GBV frontman Robert Pollard), but Deal's coy honesty shines through on each track, giving the album less an air of novelty than one of pure rock. The Amps are a traditional band. For a change, there's no sense of combative personalities trying to leave their marks, a conflict that had haunted Deal through her previous efforts.
Bassist Luis Lerma and drummer Jim McPherson provide the basis of the sound, whether it's the seductive chug of "Bragging Party," the racetrack saunter of "Pacer," or the manic nightclub rumble of "Empty Glasses." Guitarists Deal and Nate Farley revel in slightly baked distortion, dropping hooks into the spaces in sound and layering them on in classic pop style, with a little down-and-dirty rock here and there ("Hoverin," "Tipp City").
Deal's angelic voice once again rises to the top of a great album, and even when it's hard to pick out what she's saying, her vocals are a charming cherry on top of Pacer's murky mix. She exhales lines like frozen breath in winter, at once cute and husky. The picture of a pouty Deal exhorting "Yeah, we're straight -- we get high on music" in "Hoverin" is too personal and precious for her other bands, but fits in perfectly here between Farley's power riffs.
Pacer is one of the decade's most cruelly underappreciated pop albums. This is understandable, given the circumstance surrounding the Amps, and the fact that the band's lifespan only included this one album and a couple short tours. But these are 33 essential minutes of rock to any fan of Deal or indie pop.
03-I am decided
08-full on idle
09-breaking the split screen barrier
11-she's a girl