Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Archers of Loaf

  • Icky Mettle [Alias, 1993] A
  • Archers of Loaf Vs. the Greatest of All Time [Alias, 1994] A-
  • Vee Vee [Alias, 1995] A
  • The Speed of Cattle [Alias, 1996] A-
  • All the Nations Airports [Alias, 1996] A-
  • Vitus Tinnitus [Alias, 1997] *
  • White Trash Heroes [Alias, 1998] A-
  • Seconds Before the Accident [Alias, 2000] **

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Icky Mettle [Alias, 1993]
Guitars screeching every which way, beats speeding and hesitating and slamming chaos back into the box, twentysomething boyvoices whining and arguing and drawling and straining, it's the world according to indie rock: a tantrum set to music as sharp and self-contained as a comedy routine. Aurally, this is now--one now, anyway. If it has zero to say about tomorrow, why don't you just worry about that then? A

Archers of Loaf Vs. the Greatest of All Time [Alias, 1994]
Even when they fuck around--half a minute of silence to open, two minutes of scales to whet or ruin your appetite for their catchiest tune--they sound like a live band ready to service a living audience, their gleeful anger felt rather than assumed. And with a new album coming down the chute, this abrasively aestheticized little EP could be your last chance to one-up the madding crowd. A-

Vee Vee [Alias, 1995]
Eric Bachmann's pissed-off, speechlike yowl-to-croak isn't as callow or pop as Stephen Malkmus's demented, speechlike croon-to-whine, but their bands share an aural gestalt: tuneful two-guitar breaks that set off unkempt explosions before recombining in brief climaxes soon interrupted by more disarray. The Archers trace the agitated melodies and off guitar to the Replacements, as if the clamor Bob Stinson unloosed by accident and spirit possession was instead planned out by former sax major Bachmann and axe-wielding bad boy Eric Johnson. With Paul Westerberg an adept of the realistic popsong and the Archers' titles so gnomic they forget them themselves, I resisted this notion until the show where I caught myself shouting out a whole utterly comprehensible stanza: "They caught and drowned the front man/Of the world's worst rock and roll band/He was out of luck/Because nobody gave a fuck/The jury gathered all around the aqueduct/Drinking and laughing and lighting up/Reminiscing just how bad he sucked/Singin' throw him in the river/Throw him in the river/Throw him in the river/Throw the bastard in the river." A

The Speed of Cattle [Alias, 1996]
The usual outtake flotsam--singles, B sides, flexis, compilation cuts, alternate versions, John Peel instrumentals, long-intro thing that would have fit onto Vee Vee, seven-minute opus that thank God wouldn't have. All punky, all dissonant, all yet to be melded into one of them seamless wholes. But I say the bits and pieces of the most musical band in Alternia beat the fully realized works of art of mortal road heroes. In fact, I say they are fully realized works of art. A-

All the Nations Airports [Alias, 1996]
What verbal content you can parse might be sardonic if it carried any emotional weight at all--conned customers, security from LAX to JFK, assassination on Christmas eve. Yet it's too hoarse and wild to seem detached or even deadpan; basically what it gives off is intelligence, as a given you live with rather than a goal you achieve. The import's in croaked, wild, intelligent music that's also virtuosic, especially up against the myriad alt bands who fancy themselves players these days. The controlled discord of the four instrumentals recalls the compositional smarts of Eric Bachmann's sax-based Barry Black, but the nasty little guitar lines have Eric Johnson all over them, and bass and drums put in their two bits as well. True, their WEA debut could be more songful. But don't blame them for making the most of the cognitive dissonance that is their lot. A-

Vitus Tinnitus [Alias, 1997]
buy the EP, then see the show ("Nostalgia," "Audiowhore") *

White Trash Heroes [Alias, 1998]
Hey, we all have our personal alt-rock standbys--campaigners who've stuck out a sound that rings our chimes dead center. So if I tell you mine are the Voidoids revisited, will I maybe make a sale? Two guitars, one choppy and one fleet, rip up bebop-worthy dissonances over punk forcebeats, and if the frontman seems less than charismatic, well, Richard Hell types never hold their bands together for six years. Seeker that he is, Eric Bachmann varies croak with tweetle, massages some keybs, even samples. Minor details, I insist. This is their sound, there is none higher, other indie bands should just retire. A-

Seconds Before the Accident [Alias, 2000]
Not enough old stuff for the live overview they earned ("Web in Front," "Wrong"). **

See Also