Review Summary: Taking risks can be very rewardingArchers of Loaf
were a band that always tried to push their music forward by adding different styles and fresh ideas to their already genius sound. Their 1993 debut Icky Mettle
was a well-rounded slab of brash indie rock complete with snotty punk vocals and a guitar tone that could make any musician weep for days. Now, these guys could of taken the easy route by simply releasing Icky Mettle
clone after Icky Mettle
clone, however they did not, rather spending the time and energy toying around with new sounds.
Perhaps the easiest way to describe their follow-up recording, Vee Vee
, is by calling it a “mixed bag”. The first two tracks showcases the album’s odd nature: “Step Into The Light” is a surprisingly smooth track, the vocals are as soft as a kitten, which perfectly compliments the light-as-air instrumentation. Hell, “Step Into The Light” is a track that makes you question whether or not you’re listening to the same band that wrote “Web In Front”, which makes “Harnessed In Slums” the perfect follow-up track. “Harnessed In Slums” includes the band’s trademark smart-ass snark, the instrumentation is energetic and infectious, and the chorus has an big anthem-esque tone to it that makes it practically impossible to not chant along to. These two songs are unique and completely different from each other, just like the rest of the album.
The thing that makes Vee Vee
so great is that each track has there own tone to them, no two songs sound alike. “Greatest Of All Time” has perhaps the band’s most heartfelt performance on the record, as the vocals are executed in a melancholy croon. “Death In The Park” showcases the band’s knack of writing poppy choruses, and “Floating Friends” sounds just like its title: light weight and dreary. The indie-experimentation found on this record works to the band's advantage, but it can also lead to the album’s faults, such as “The Worst Has Yet To Come”.
This track is perhaps the band’s sloppiest number, for it sounds as if each of the band members were playing completely different songs when they recorded it. The bass literally sounds like it’s trying to catch up to the messy, unfiltered guitars, and the way the vocals awkwardly stumble into the song is nothing short of, well, hard to listen to.
Now, I can list off the best and worst tracks for days, but if I had to choose a track that best represents the album’s overall aesthetic, it would be “Underachievers March and Fight Song”. The thing about this track is that it doesn’t sound that good at first, beginning with a quirky, repetitive horn loop that might put some listeners off at first. This loop stays for the entire song, only ever pausing during the chorus, but don’t be fooled by it: The longer you listen to the song, the more it reveals its greatness.
The way the guitars subtly wash themselves over the loop in the very beginning is nothing short of mesmerizing. Next thing you know, you’re hit with a surprisingly upbeat chorus, complete with boy scout whistling and a surprisingly tasteful use of banjo. The once annoying loop is now revealed to be surprisingly good, as it gives a strong structure to the song, adding a well-needed backbone.
While Archers of Loaf will never go down in history as the greatest band of their era, they should still be remembered as a very strong one. Vee Vee
showcases the band’s experimental side, which they would later delve much deeper into with their later albums. What makes Vee Vee
so great, however, is that it acts as a bridge between their early, brash era and the later, more daring side of their career. Anyone interested in indie music should definitely give this album a listen.