Review : Archers of Loaf - Vee Vee
PopmattersThis expanded re-issue of the band’s second full-length opens more space in its compressed production. Comparisons to Pavement fade. The Archers’ gnarled guitars atop a thicket of bass and a churn of drums always reminded me of Mission of Burma. Vee Vee signals a shift towards the sonic exactitude and undergrad smarts of the latter band. Producer Bob Weston, who had played bass in the Volcano Suns with the drummer of MoB, later worked with Steve Albini and Shellac, and eventually the reformed Burma. Weston’s drier, unfussy direction underlies the Archers’ 1995 album.
“Step Into the Light” resembles that Boston ensemble, with a more hushed entrance as the record opens. It swells and hovers as if somewhat alien. What follows is one of the best songs from the decade. “Harnessed in Slums,” for a band from a basketball-obsessed campus, tells the tale of those harnessed wanting to break free. It’s a memorable subject for a three-minute tune, and its rousing chorus and insistent tempos celebrate as they comment upon the cheerleading, ra-ra rants of such schools as their own University of North Carolina.
While the lo-fi tag hung around this Chapel Hill quartet, Eric Bachmann’s strangled vocals owe as much to punk as the more classic rock traditions mined by Pavement, and the results on this follow-up to Icky Mettle foreshadow the band’s attempt to leave behind their snarlier, harder edge for experimental textures, as on the start of “Fabricoh.” This hisses and crackles like the analog and vinyl formats technology was discarding, the lo-fi aesthetic giving way to shiny discs and ordered sound files. It also sounds – given that song’s telling title – as if the Archers fought off compromise which had lured their peers (Sebadoh?) and predecessors into pop after postpunk. This combination of anger and melody shows the band’s ability to appeal to what was still labelled as a “college rock” crowd. A dozen years after R.E.M.’s rise, adventurous listeners sought not the increasingly cheery direction of the Athens band, so much as an edgier (by then) Southern college town rooted in slamming menace as well as pop-directed swagger....full text
DustedmagazineIs there an album that lives and breathes, hell … embraces the nervous, greasy, dandruff-eating spirit of the 1990’s every-nerd more than Vee Vee? A cursory flip through the booklet accompanying the Merge reissue reminds us, in no uncertain terms, what homely times indeed these were. Looking at the crowd shots from the era, one sees things for pretty much how they were: a bunch of really anxious normal people in band t-shirts and baggy jeans watching a really anxious and extremely sweaty bunch of normal dudes flog some tunes like the headless horseman was chasing them. Which of course is what made the Archers great.
History has propped-up Icky Mettle, their debut, as the accepted must-have of their catalog, and a semi-classic of the era. As one of the aforementioned audience members though, I felt a little disenchanted. Both of that album’s standout cuts, (“Web In Front,” “Wrong”) had already been released as singles, setting the bar high for the full-length. Not that I didn’t still listen to the thing a million times that year, but nothing on it quite matched the kinetic spark of those two songs. Vee Vee however, felt like a different story from the get-go. Between the first two full-lengths, the band had toured hard, and released the turgid Greatest Of All Time EP, a raw, darker song suite that saw them striking out into untamed territories of aggression and restraint. That EP was appended to Merge’s Icky Mettle reissue a few months back, but it makes more sense here, as the preliminary move that Vee Vee would consummate. A moody, brooding tug-of-war between beauty and brutality, Vee Vee was the crystallization of everything this band did best.
The pop songs were a given by this point. The Loaf could crank out quasimoto’d guitar anthems like “Harnessed in Slums” or “Nevermind the Enemy” all day and still fit in a six-pack lunch. But it’s the unexpected touches — the wordless harmonies of album opener “Step Into The Light,” or the patient build and relatively elaborate construction of a song like “Let The Loser Melt” — that make Vee Vee work. This album feels more like an album. There’s a balance and flow that their other full-lengths lack: It’s impeccably sequenced, expanding and contracting as the band moved through Neil Young-ish slowburners, mangled marches and crazed post-grunge power moves.
But, oh, those power moves. The heavier songs here (“Fabricoh” and “Nostalgia” are particularly eviscerating) lend Vee Vee a heft, both aural and emotional, that few of their counterparts could so viscerally convey without getting into Jesus Lizard territory. They contribute to the overall bloodletting vibe of an album that seems bent on releasing the scattered, confused energy of a band conflicted with their place in the rapidly ascending indie underground....full text
SflomanVee Vee was another intense, hard rocking effort featuring all of their strengths: raging, discordant guitar lines and tribal, powerhouse rhythms that anchor noisily propulsive anthems. Archers Of Loaf rail against the record industry and their modest place within it, most memorably on the mid-tempo epic “The Greatest Of All Time,” which notes that “the underground is overcrowded.” They also add some needed variety to their attack on the evocative “Step Into The Light” and the languidly melodic “Floating Friends,” while “Underachievers March and Fight Song” amusingly features Salvation Army Horns. But by and large the band’s core sound remains intact, and their increased diversity merely enhances their deliriously assaultive yet grippingly melodic guitar attack. Vee Vee is similar to Icky Mettle in that it’s a frontloaded album that contains a few great songs, several very good songs, and some that I could probably live without. The end result is another batch of edgy but catchy rockers, and another borderline great album that's highlighted by the careening classic “Harnessed In Slums,” the seriously set to overdrive assault of “Fabricoh,” and the aforementioned "The Greatest Of All Time,” all of which should rank high on any short list of great ‘90s indie songs....full text
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If someone stares to you do you stare back?