Archers of Loaf - Reason in Decline

31 Oct 2022 - Thorsten

Indie-Core | Merge Records | Release date: 21 Oct 2022 | Favorite song: Screaming Undercover

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There are so many great bands making a comeback in 2022 and one must-listen is: Archers of Loaf. “Archers of…. Who?” some European folks might ask irritate. “Archers of Loaf!” many Americans might scream out in response! Reason in Decline, the new Archers-album, is a picture perfect example of how a band can come back after 15 years and still remain relevant! How that came to happen – well, let’s find out!</i>

Archers of Loaf was/is one of these awesome Indie bands of the early 90s, which unfortunately never made it really big here in Europe, where my 44-year-old-butt is now sitting behind my desk. I must admit that I also learnt about them via a detour over American hardcore powerhouse Give Up The Ghost (or American Nightmare) who covered the Archers-track ”You And Me”. If you do not know AOL (talk about a nightmarish band abbrev!), then you might use this tidbit of information here and listen to the original ”You and Me” which you can find on the utter thunderstorm of awesomeness that is the Archers opus magnum </i>Icky Mettle</i>, which has seen a really good re-release by Merge Records back in 2011.

Now, one might have to go about the term “Indie” in the context of Archers of Loaf: The band are as much “indie” as contemporaries Jimmy Eat World or Fugazi, fore-runners Sonic Youth or Hüsker Dü have been – and somewhere within these cornerstones you might find the sound of Archers of Loaf. One foot in the good Emo and angular Hardcore scenes, with similarities to fellow North Carolina band Superchunk, or Sebadoh, to Jawbox and Jawbreaker – maybe even more to Jets to Brazil? You might have noticed, “Indie” is more of an attitude for AOL than a description of their sound and that is also a reason for their somewhat universal appeal; remember that they have been covered by bands from totally other ways of life and music.

The new record is now their first real one in a decade and a half and it is a child of their live reunion some years ago on the one hand – the band found a knack for being on stage together again – and the pandemic, because singer, songwriter and guitar player Eric Bachmann found himself at home, watching the children and being unable to support his family as he had done for the past 27 years (!) before: by making music. He had already noticed that he could not write new Archers songs from the same perspective as he had done decades ago, the loner dottie rebel kind of position, because he naturally is not that person anymore nowadays anymore. But the pandemic and all of its consequences on the psyche and the soul that came with it showed him that he could pick a new position, one that might be a bit less feverish (only a bit, though) but that had a lot to say anyway! When you listen to songs like ”Screaming Undercover” which is one of these magical “Power-Pop meets Indie-core”-tracks, you can definitely hear that Eric still has a lot of anger in him, even if that anger is now directed at the system and the scene and is thus somewhat less introspective. The high guitar lines of second guitar player Eric Johnson go so well with Bachmann’s vocals that seem like taken straight from a manual “How to write urgent rock tracks”. And when the next track ”Mama Was a War Profiteer” then hits you with its mellow and seemingly calm soundscape until there is that minor but steady eruption at around mid-way then it is easy to see that this mixing of fast and mellow tracks is brought to perfection here. These are guys who for effin hell sure know what they are doing!

The way the band arranges clever, understating riffs with pumping drum-leads and sometimes multiple vocal lines can really well be exemplified by ”In the Surface Noise” which opens like a classic emo song but has that little bit of rough edge that make it stand out from the crowd. When Eric then adds his oftentimes shout-singing vocals over it, the whole things simple makes sense. These are four guys who have been together all along the way (also a rarity!) and who enjoy their music a lot, just like they did before, but now they are not pushing for any sales or tours, they are in it for themselves. And we are in it for Archers of Loaf! Comeback of the Year? Maybe. Is that important? No! But it’s great they are back with new music, thank you Covid!