Archers of Loaf – VeeVee

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

I remember owning this album in my first year of law school but not buying it; the probabilities, then, suggest I got it at the Tower Records on Third Avenue. But living in the dorm meant that I could not responsibly play this at the volume it demanded. This is my favorite Archers album, mostly because of “Fabricoh.” The band itself remained a mystery to me; two albums in and I still knew next to nothing about the generic white guys in the sleeve picture. I couldn’t even begin to guess which face went with which name. All I knew is they made unique, bewildering music – an underworld-spawned behemoth that ate asphalt like candy.

What I Think of This Album

Truth be told, this is an exhausting listen. Bachman barks and shouts confounding strings of words that communicate, if nothing else, a dark, all-consuming resentment while guitars lurch and ping and explode all over the place. It rocks, but it drains you.

Perversely, things start out with the deceptively mellow “Step Into the Light,” a mostly wordless exploration of texture featuring some very unlikely vocal harmonies. From there, though, shit gets real. “Harnessed in Slums” starts with a barbed wire intro before Bachman starts in with his bursts of sandpaper vocals (owing something to Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky”) while the band careens behind him. Johnson’s guitar creates amazing sounds, previously unknown to beast or man, on this album. “Nevermind the Enemy” and “Greatest of All Time” suggest a deep dissatisfaction with music, bands, fans, friends, the concept of friendship, and of course, one’s own self. Bachman’s growl just wears you down even as you sing along to such charmers as “The people gathered all around the radio / To hear the transmissions from the devil’s soul / Locked and stunned and sick and cold.”

The vocal rhythm of “Harnessed” is repeated to a not inconsiderable degree on “Underdogs of Nipomo” but it doesn’t matter when Johnson is spiking the song with weird asides and figures, and Bachman goes all in on the chanted chorus. There is a return to texture on the unusual “Floating Friends.” “Fabricoh” is a fucking masterpiece – absolutely my “favorite sound around” –  with a suspenseful intro of pulsed distortion and gentle organ before Bachman sacrifices his vocal cords to the god of “rockin’ out.” The guitar sounds and song structure here are actually relatively conventional – this might be the closest thing to a pop song on the first two albums. “Death in the Park” starts out sounding like REM (“7 Chinese Brothers”) before it turns claustrophobic and menacing, while “The Worst Has Yet to Come” is pleasantly noisy.

Shellac’s Bob Weston worked on this recording.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Fabricoh” all goddammned day long.

Release Date

March 1995

The Cover Art

Good but not great. It’s sort of retro – the blonde woman with a glamourous cascade of hair and glimpse of bare shoulder, leaning against a muscle car – but not related to the music. The title on the plate above the grille is a nice touch, but the shadowing makes the first part too difficult to read. The Photoshopped band name on the building looks silly.

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