Arches of Loaf
I recently found Archers of Loaf’s Vee Vee CD at Encore, a used book and record shop in the NDG (Notre-Dame-de-Grace) section of Montréal. And I felt it was fate because a few months before I started listening to them again. Actually, I have to say I didn’t know them all too well to begin with, just a few songs. Spotify of all things helped nourish the little bit of musical knowledge I had of them, especially since I kept hearing and had on a playlist ‘Harnessed in Slums,’ a song I just absolutely adore. And listening to it again after years made me recall this one regret I had. Sometime in the mid-to-late 90s I owned the Archers of Loaf 7” Harnessed in Slums single. Although I loved the song I stupidly traded the single with my friend Tim for I can’t even remember what single in exchange. And I always regretted it because I recalled how powerful that song was and felt like I somehow jilted myself majorly as a result. Now listening to them again, with Vee Vee, I’m trying to figure out why they are so darn good – because they just are! It must be, for me, the combination of Eric Bachmann’s voice and singing which is deep and different and sort of sounds like he barks a bit or is tortured, but not really, and has that crackly voice quality I like, and the guitars, the intricate sounds they are making, their clinking and twinkling, are poised so thoughtfully and eloquently but with a fervor and emotion that is heavy and wistful. I’m so happy I’m rediscovering Archers of Loaf now and writing about them. It brings me great pleasure to do so.
First song on Vee Vee is ‘Step into the Light,’ a cover of a song written by Mark Griffiths. It is slow, meandering, creeping in, thoughtful, graceful, with tweak-y guitar playing, with soft ooooohhh backup singing and a melody which climbs like a vine. Then a soundscape of creative little guitar sounds, by Eric Bachmann and Eric Johnson, zipping and dissonant, blending and grinding like playful alien sounds. The harmony is creaky and trippy, and languid, and then right before Eric sings the guitars kind of stop their mayhem and it’s quiet except the steady drum beat andn then he goes, barely audible and he’s got that quiet earnest and timid voice as he repeats the lyrics, over and over, and the intensity grows ever so slowly like a tease.
Step into the light
So tired of being in the dark and all alone
Step into the light
With the second track – ‘Harnessed in Slums’ – the beginning starts with this unique echo-y guitar effect which repeats, and then with drumsticks prepping, tap tap tap, the verse jets off fierce, Eric leashing out some astounding singing and a memorable mouthful of lyrics.
Too harnessed in slums, to rock you wrap your throat.
Standing over your common ground.
Snuff the leader with the bad assed plan.
Take what you want from the palm of his hand.
We’re running joke, running jokes, running dry.
Strip the color from the meat of my eye.
Lick the loser, just don’t make him stick.
Lay it on heavy and make the wrong size fit.
I want waste.
We want waste.
They want waste.
Slaves want waste.
The song’s got just the perfect energy, and there’s so much warmth coming from the myriad of instruments and the lyrics and playing… and the backup singing keeps going with the chorus. There’s just so many layers and then that eloquent guitar playing pops in the 3rd verse. And Eric’s impassioned singing crackly voice is very appealing. And the sounds the guitars are making are just a piece of brilliant interweaving and vibing with my deepest insides. I can listen to this song over and over and somehow don’t get sick of it. When you think the song is over they lash into another chorus and it’s just magic, there’s a slight pause before and you’re happily surprised.
Side to side, with the tired smile
Cut into your face
You let me down for the second time straight
With thugs and scum and punks and freaks
Are harnessed in slums but they want to be free
‘Nevermind the Enemy’ intros with a stark and sleek guitar, strumming, and blinking, and then Eric starts into the singing, and in the 2nd verse the guitar is doing that thing, sliding up and down, the drums are keeping up with a vibrant tempo and the guitars are intertwining happily and harmoniously, and the rhythm is comforting, getting into this groovy hook and twinkle sounds.
Let’s raise the glass
Let’s peel the eyelids back
And toast them.
And we can watch their plans fall through.
I’ve found a reason to quit.
And I can stop when I want.
And I can call it off any time I want to.
If I could light your cash,
You can smoke your stash.
Sucking on your best friend’s skin.
Nevermind your friends.
Nevermind your friends.
We’ll make the joke on them.
We’ll make a joke.
‘Greatest of all Time’ starts really slow, a barely there trickle of guitar with Eric’s earnests singing and then backup singing slowing filters in too, just getting into it and then all the instruments come in with a light tempo, a curious inquiry, off kilter and discordant guitars getting plucky and producing yet more interesting sounds, and the rhythm and loudness is forever building. Eric’s singing is so coarse like he smoked 2 packs of cigarettes, but it’s so pleasant.
They caught and drowned the front man
Of the world’s worst rock & 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, singing
Throw him in the river
Throw him in the river
Throw him in the river
Throw the bastard in the river
‘Underdogs of Nipomo’ has a suberb intro and then a plunge into full on playing, and Eric’s raspy vocals are maybe is a bit smoother and there’s lots of weird dissonant guitar expressions playing about, hopping and skipping about the song, interlaying on top of the rhythm and feeling. This song and others on this record all have this quiet thoughtfulness to them. There’s a mid section then a growing rumbling building part that brandishes out into the last part of the song and fun little guitar wheedling about. It’s guitar noodling to the utmost. If you like to doodle and you’re a guitarist these songs are for you. The lyrics are odd, awkward and not rhyming in any way, and therefore don’t stick in my head as much but it doesn’t matter.
I said you’re better than me at this
So much better at this,
So much better of forcing the matter of
Kill the running joke just before it grows
Tell everyone you owe
Collects and goes away.
‘Floating Friends’ has a laid-back feel, hearty and sweet, leisurely going along, not standing out too strongly but has soul and a soft beauty. The guitars are really expressing lots of good things. Then a break before the ending and then the best part of the song for me is this clever anthem –
All of my friends have floated away
Connect the valley to the astral plane
‘1985’ is a static-y short instrumental with an casio sounding organ playing a simple old-timey melody, which blends into the next song – ‘Fabricoh,’ in which the drums start it up, with piercing guitar repeating and then a full on grungy blast off, chock full wildness, and then a slight break before the 2nd verse of just guitar, then right back into it. It’s got that real, I don’t know, 90s feel which I miss. The expressive melody is flawless, and droning bass and crazy part near the end.
Fabricoh is the favorite sound around
Watch the wholesale slaughter of the whole downtown
Stepping off the ship in limbo
It’s the spit on his chin that makes us nervous
It sets the high price from the crowd that’s gathering
Cutting off the false communication
And we missed the registration
In our mental hibernation
With the strangest violation of all
‘Nostalgia’ is the heaviest and funkiest song by far, squeaky and blasting chords, the lyrics are mean and the song is short in length.
‘Let the Loser Melt’ – I love the title and this is probably my 2nd favourite song on this record. It starts with a hopeful progression, the simple start of drums and melodic guitar that’s got a little buzzy effect on it, and then a rhythm guitar sets in and another pretty guitar comes in like light flittering raindrops, which enters gradually, a glorious chorus of guitars all playing, then coming to the main part, making intricate patterns of harmony, and they’re soothing and joyful and wistful, and you can’t help bopping your head, it’s infectious. And then Eric starts singing–soft at first then contrasting into his hard way of intoning here. It has so many great sections to it and flows really poetic and passionate and then quick it’s over leaving you wanting more.
The first time,
Was the worst time.
The second time,
Was worse than the first.
The last time was a great crime
On all things, great and small,
But this time is gonna be the best.
It’s gonna take the other ones off my chest.
It was just in a rut,
To fall into a rut.
To fall into a plan greater than mankind.
All the others hate it,
All the others set you up.
Can’t you smell the satisfaction on their breath?
‘Death in the Park’ – I just want to wrap myself up in his Eric’s voice and singing here, he could be saying complete nonsense and I’ll just love it. His vocals are so raspy, it’s sexy. The music is comforting and lovely. It’s got this little animal sound on the guitar, like a crying bird.
‘The Worst has yet to Come’ – is a total frantic chaotic beginning, it’s like their jam of craziness. And then droning bass and humming and fervent singing, and urgency in the melody and rhythm.
There’s no correlation between our aggravations
There’s no correlation and the worst has yet to come
‘Underachievers March and Fight Song’ – has a fun sort of circus melody, amusing, a trumpet sound. And just a smorgasbord of other sounds happening and a whistling part in the background.
Attack at your leisure
And smoking all the reefer
I’m an underachiever
Kick a billion years
Of total frustration
And then at the very end this song stretches out for a couple of minutes which brings you to the ending, like a secret song but it’s just a bunch of instruments making noise like the finale of a live show. I’d say there is a good chance this record will be a favourite of mine for a long time coming!