All Girl Summer Fun Band – All Girl Summer Fun Band

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 1)

Self-criticism, if not self-flagellation, can come far too easily. Even in contexts where performance or achievement isn’t relevant. I probably didn’t even first become aware of Portland’s All Girl Summer Fun Band until maybe 2021 or 2022. And I didn’t listen to a note of their music until 2023, when I saw them live at a Slumberland-adjacent show with the excellent Tony Molina. And in fact, the AGSFB is a big name in the twee scene and has been since about 1998 when they first formed. But I didn’t know anything about them, and while I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the music I like, this wonderful band was just something I overlooked. There are good reasons for it (parenthood! job! depression!), but there don’t need to be. This shit isn’t a competition and I don’t have to justify why I didn’t happen to know about this band for so long; it really doesn’t matter how conversant I am in some musical subgenre. I am just focusing on how fortunate I feel that I now know about them.

What I Think of This Album

Truer marketing never existed. All girl band? Yep. Summer fun? You betcha. There you have it. Everything you need to know is right there. Of course, that’s hardly the case. While the album title/band name as essence is a reliable shortcut, taking it will mean missing out on other essential scenery. For one, there is the talent at work, as the four musicians swap instruments regularly and all are involved in the songwriting in some way. Also, there is the band’s pedigree, with Jen Sbraglia being one-half of legendary the Softies (with Rose Melberg of Tiger Trap) and Kathy Foster’s simultaneous rise to prominence with the Thermals. And there is the winking manner of the foursome as they pop out their short, sunny songs of innocence.

Somehow, the quartet of Foster, Sbraglia, and cohorts Arirak Douangpanya and founder Kim Baxter (she somehow convinced the other three, none of whom had every met the others, to form the band) manages to walk the line between sincerity and irony without tripping even once. So while the style is borderline frivolous and the presentation approaches archness, there is warmth, gentle humor, and undeniable intelligence to the songs. The four women are here to have fun and they’re going to do it in a way that is fun, and they realize you may think it’s not fun, but that only makes it more fun for them.

As with most twee, you’re either going to like this a lot or not at all. You will appreciate that “Later Operator” is somehow both G-rated and R-rated at the same time, the simple messaging of “Cell Phone,” the implicit humor in “Canadian Boyfriend,” and the fact that the band has a theme song (“Theme Song”), or you won’t. I hope you do, and I dare say you should.

K Records impresario and Beat Happening leader Calvin Johnson recorded the album and contributes memorable vocals to “New In Town.”

The Best Thing About This Album

How it is born of the bravery to do something just for the fun of it, even if most people won’t like it.

Release Date

February, 2002

The Cover Art

The drawing is by Sbraglia, and I like the ‘60s hair salon theme, as well as the stars in the band name (which remind me of the Eugenius album cover for Oomalama).

Alvvays – Antisocialites

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

It seemed like every time Alvvays toured near me, it was as part of some festival that I was not interested in. I *finally* got to see them in 2022 as they promoted their third album (and even then, the way the venue carved up the audience space to prevent underage drinking at this all-ages show diminished my experience). It felt like a long overdue event for me, and I was pleased to see such a large and youthful crowd, and I hope Alvvays has a nice, long career.

What I Think of This Album

Antisocialites is a huge step forward for Alvvays, even as it lacks an “Archie, Marry Me” (which, let’s face it, they will probably never equal). The songwriting is more consistent, the playing is more confident (aided by cleaner production), and the arrangements are more robust.

Gauzy and twirling, “In Undertow” finds the sweet spot between dream-pop and jangle-pop, with some subtle guitar feedback woven in as well. Ballad “Dreams Tonight” is a gorgeous new wave standout. The melancholy continues with arpeggiated “Not My Baby” (complete with girl group motorcycle sound effects), which rides an insistent bass part. “Already Gone” is another weepy but thoroughly affecting number. 

The band rocks out more on this album than on the debut, too. “Plimsoll Punks” is appealingly up-tempo and snotty, with some appropriately thick guitar tones, while lovelorn “Your Type” is propelled by some enthusiastic drumming and Molly Rankin’s elastic voice. None other than the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Jim Reid is namechecked on the driving, pounding “Lollipop (Ode to Jim), a bizarre bit of fanfic that involves taking LSD and on which Rankin does some neat vocal tricks. 

Matrimonial organ introduces the hilariously titled “Saved By a Waif,” which relies on a muscular guitar and bass, as well as some welcome keyboard lines. “Hey” sounds decidedly European, approaching something danceable while also being spiky and unapproachable. Meanwhile, closer “Forget About Life” is as inviting a plea for companionship and connection as you will ever hear. And I love the (fake, probably) tape manipulation at the end as everything goes out of key for a bit (a la Teenage Fanclub’s “Star Sign”).

Drummer Phil MacIsaac had left by the time the album was recorded. Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub sings and plays the glockenspiel (fuck yes!) but it is unclear on which track(s).

The Best Thing About This Album

While “Forget About Life” is stunning, I give the nod to “Lollipop (Ode to Jim)” in part because it rocks and in part because the band was comfortable enough to get a little weird with it.

Release Date

September, 2017

The Cover Art

Welp, another shitty album cover from Alvvays.

Aztec Camera – Stray

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

I remember hearing “The Crying Scene” on WXRT while working in my father’s office one summer and then learning that it was Aztec Camera and excitedly thinking, “they’re back!” And while that ended up not being accurate, it was close enough. I recently threw out all my old concert ticket stubs (which I regret – they could have formed the basis of a project similar to this one; my solipsism knows no bounds). I came across one for Aztec Camera at the 9:30 Club. Reader, I have no memory of this show. I remember something about every other concert I’ve ever been to, and this one was a show I was undoubtedly looking forward to. But this ticket stub was a shock and mystery to me. Anyway, Stray is worth owning.

What I Think of This Album

This is a difficult album to describe, other than as “the second-best Aztec Camera album.” There are more guitar-heavy rockers here than on any other of Frame’s albums (though at some point, I learned my lesson and just stopped buying them, so maybe I am wrong), but it is far from a rockin’ platter. And that’s because there is also a lot of light jazz, two R&B numbers, and the acoustic closer; this album is all over the place.

The title track is a quiet, slow, piano-based ballad that would not be out of place in, well, a piano bar. “The Crying Scene” is the radio single:  a power-poppy bopper with sparkly keyboard parts, a distorted guitar sound, and oddly life-affirming lyrics. On this and “Get Outta London,” as well as the other faster numbers, Frame sings with more gusto and grit than on all of High Land, Hard Rain combined. “Get Outta London,” by the way, has a well-placed snare hit that I super-appreciate, and is almost my favorite thing on this album. “Over My Head” is guitar-based jazz, this time, and honestly not my cup of tea. “Good Morning Britain” is a collaboration with Mick Jones (of the Clash, not Foreigner) and it’s bizarre and fun (the sequencer line checking both boxes simultaneously) and I don’t know what the hell it’s about, but it also seems to be promoting positivity and new beginnings.

“How It Is” is another rocker – more blues-based this time – and how it is is good enough, with a Van Halen-ish solo, of all things. “The Gentle Kind” is the Scottish R&B you didn’t ask for, and “Notting Hill Blues” is the same thing except, you know, more bluesy (and ickier – “hold me and really make love to me” – um, no). But these are the price you pay for the caring, heartfelt “Song for a Friend,” which is exactly that – a gentle and stunning show of support and concern for a fellow human.

Edwyn Collins of Orange Juice is credited as an additional musician on this album, and it would’ve been nice to have known exactly what he did on which song.

The Best Thing About This Album

In a better world, everyone going through a difficult time would have received a mixtape from a friend with “Song for a Friend” on it.

Release Date

July, 1990

The Cover Art

This cover is garbage. Nothing about it is good, though I guess I like the green of the background (this image does not actually have the correct shade, which is darker).

Aztec Camera – High Land, Hard Rain

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

I bought this cassette in high school, at Rose Records in Vernon Hills, Illinois; it was roughly six years after its release, but I was ten when it was released and not yet in my Scottish indie phase. My mother asked why I was buying “Mexican music.” I don’t recall how I learned about Aztec Camera – I had no access to MTV and didn’t even know of the “Oblivious” video until many years later – but I fell in love with this and played the shit out of it. I was in a carpool senior year and on my one day a week to drive, I played this over and over; I didn’t care that it threatened to expose a romantic streak (I doubt anyone was paying attention anyway) nor, obviously, that it might annoy my passengers. In college, I tried to convince the metalheads in the dorm that Roddy Frame’s guitarwork was superior to Kirk Hammett’s – that effort didn’t turn out how I’d hoped. Frame was in his teens when he wrote and recorded this, and of course, never equalled it and apparently never wanted to. I used to be upset about what I viewed as squandered talent, but in time I just grew to accept that High Land, Hard Rain was a special album and that the absence of a worthy sequel only underscored its uniqueness.

What I Think of This Album

This is basically a flawless album, dated production aside (the drum sounds are a travesty). It’s astonishing that Frame was such an accomplished songsmith, guitarist, and lyricist at such a tender age. Throughout, Frame exudes paired but contrasting sentiments:  he is youthful but weary, exuberant but realistic, yearning but resigned. He sounds like someone exponentially wiser than even your most precocious teen, and if that’s just an illusion, well then all the more power to Frame for it.

The songs are a revelation – catchy, timeless, bright, clean, and crisp. The guitars – a web of acoustic and electric, rife with Latin flavorings and jazz voicings – are ON FUCKING DISPLAY on track after track:  “Oblivious,” “The Boy Wonders,” “Walk Out to Winter,” “We Could Send Letters,” and “Lost Outside the Tunnel,” all feature jaw-dropping runs and fills. Special kudos to bassist Campbell Owens for some nimble work throughout, while producer Bernie Clarke adds some nice backing organ. “Oblivious” is the obvious pop hit, with “The Boy Wonders” not far behind and “Pillar to Post” right there, too. “We Could Send Letters” is a beautiful ballad, matched if not outdone by the gorgeous “Back on Board,” with its fantastic gospel choir outro.

The CD version I have adds three extra tracks to the original album, all welcome additions, particularly the fun rockabilly of “The Queen’s Tattoos,” which has a nice reference to Iggy Pop.

Phil Vinall (the Auteurs, Elastica, Close Lobsters) was the engineer.

The Best Thing About This Album

It’s really hard to pick, but I think “Down the Dip” (Dip being shorthand for Diplomat, a pub near Frame’s high school) is the perfect closer for this album. Short, sweet, and strong.

Release Date

April, 1983

The Cover Art

Yeah, this is a terrible cover. I don’t know what the fuck that painting is about or why it’s here.

The Auteurs – Now I’m A Cowboy

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

It actually took me a bit to come around on the Auteurs. My introduction was through MTV, with Dave Kendall hyping the video to what I am 90% sure was New Wave’s “Show Girl,” reciting alleged buzz that the Auteurs (along with Suede) were being hailed as the new Smiths. Well, there was no better way to guarantee my disappointment; I foolishly let myself believe such a thing was possible, so desperately I wanted to fill the Smiths-shaped hole in my heart. Three minutes or so later, I swore off the Auteurs completely. I don’t remember how or when it was that I came back to the band, oddly enough. Of course, I am glad I did. These two albums are a powerhouse pair (they released two more – with the third being hailed by many as their best – but I think their early work is where they shone brightest (or darkest, as it were)). Luke Haines went on to form Black Box Recorder and issues several solo albums, as well as a collaboration with Peter Buck.

What I Think of This Album

Another winner from the Auteurs, arguably better than the debut, though it’s hard to tell – both albums are of a piece (down to the cover art) and almost any song from one could’ve fit in nicely on the other. Even the references overlap, with Lenny Bruce making an encore appearance, a nod to “unfaithful servants” that is reminiscent of the “unfaithful slave” from “Valet Parking,” and the evocation of criminals.

Needless to say, the subject matter is similar – just peek at song titles like “I’m a Rich Man’s Toy,” “New French Girlfriend,” and “The Upper Classes.” And, the sound is the same, with Haines’s serrated guitar ripping holes in the chamber pop that the rest of the band – cellist James Banbury having been promoted to full time member – otherwise creates.

“Lenny Valentino” charges out of the gate exuding danger, and the album does not let up from there. “Brainchild” pays tribute to a “thief with style,” with a rising outro built on slow chord strikes and organ runs. “I’m a Rich Man’s Toy” is exactly as bitter and recriminating as you’d expect, but with the vibraphone you did not expect. “New French Girlfriend” makes the most of Haines sighing over his own guitar smears. “The Upper Classes” waxes and wanes as Haines’s voice modulates in intensity, growing guttural at the right times and pulling back to fit in with the delicate guitar picking and cello strains when necessary; there is also a decidedly Beatles-esque guitar figure that pops up a couple of times.

“Chinese Bakery” is somehow even better, with a chugging rhythm and some excellent guitar work; this is Ray Davies in a razor-blade shirt schooling everyone on what a song about an “Uptown Girl” should really sound like. “A Sister Like You” is the most gentle tune about three-sibling incest ever? It sounds like E.M. Forster filtered through Lou Reed – or perhaps the other way around. “Daughter of a Child” is very pretty, with a string melody that Arcade Fire would borrow from, maybe, years later. This album is perhaps grittier and darker than the first, but just as melodic and even more self-assured. It’s fantastic.

Phil Vinall produces again.

The Best Thing About This Album

“New French Girlfriend” is funny and perfect.

Release Date

May, 1994

The Cover Art

Almost as good as the art from New Wave, and a deliberate inversion; the design team of Peter Barrett and Andrew Biscomb having been recruited again, as was photographer Stefan de Batselier (who has worked with Bowie, Bjork, Jeff Buckley, and Ozzy). The elements and design are basically the same, but the background is now white instead of black and the image is larger. And whereas the debut showed a glamorous visage reminiscent of silent film lothario, now we have a deflated young teen sporting a black eye and a lamé jacket, reminding us that the reality behind the fantasy is brutal, ugly, and pathetic (and maybe a little bit hilarious).

The Auteurs – New Wave

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

If it were possible to quantify Britishness, along a continuum with the Magna Carta and Ray Davies on one end and, I don’t know, haiku and jalapeños on the other, then the Auteurs would definitely score in the Emma Peel/crumpet/bowler hat range. I love this band intensely, a sentiment Autuer auteur Luke Haines would probably scoff at. This band is literate, perceptive, and talented, and therefore appropriately very bitter and angry about a world that, at best cares nothing for those attributes and at worst punishes them. Haines is a sneering historian who has catalogued and cross-referenced every slight and indignity, unwilling to participate in a culture that has forsaken the concepts of justice and honor. He is a cynical journalist reminding his readers of the corrupt, grimy machinations that they are complicit in. He mocks and jeers and spits, and the underlying hurt and disappointment is palpable. This is an uncompromising band that was determined to go down with the ship and forced you, from the (illusory) safety of the lifeboat, to lock eyes while it did so, if only to prove a point.

What I Think of This Album

I am amazed that the corrosiveness of Haines’s worldview, matched by the burning intensity of the guitars, didn’t physically destroy the master tape at the studio when this album was recorded. That said, this isn’t a loud, fast, or heavy album. The guitar tone – stinging and barbed – does the work of six more, and Haines is far too intelligent and plotting to resort to yelling. Besides, it might cause his suit to wrinkle (after all, “junk shop clothes will get you nowhere”). In fact, the hidden weapon here is James Banbury’s cello – there is still a gentleness to many of the songs that masks the message (there are other instruments – harmonica, xylophone, etc. – present in the arrangements yet not listed in the credits, which is annoying).

“Show Girl”’s opening chords presage the narrator’s unique lament (“Took her bowling / Got her high”). “Bailed Out” relies on delicate piano plinkings, sprinkled atop the vaguely Latin rhythm, to light the path through menacing music (though with a lovely, too-short bridge). “American Guitars” is in fact all about the slithering, dark lead lines that overtake the rest of the music like sentient tendrils. “Junk Shop Clothes” is delicate and lilting, and the sighing vocals gently remind the listener that she was doomed from well before what she thinks was the start. “How Could I Be Wrong” stalks around the garret like a wronged lover, with Banbury sawing away in the corner and shards of guitar bursting through the roof. It also starts another string of great tracks, including the criminal’s confession of “Housebreaker,” the resentful and Beatles-esque “Valet Parking,” the snide “Your Idiot Brother” (with that same venomous, vigorous guitar tone), and the rousing kick of “Early Years” (“scared the shit out of me”). This is really an excellent album, but not for everyone.

Phil Vinall (Close Lobsters, Gene, Aztec Camera) twiddled the knobs on this one.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Valet Parking” has a sort of “Eleanor Rigby” feel, and I am a big fan of the xylophone part. As usual, the cello is great. The guitar adds drops of vinegar. The drums kick in, bringing a swinging element, and then disappear.

Release Date

February 1993

The Cover Art

This is a superb cover. Stark, pretty, mysterious. The title corresponds to the band name, and the image is likewise cinematic; it all comes together to reflect Haines’s recognition of the existential issues that he explores in detail, to say nothing of his control over the entire project. The font is perfect, as is the placement and sizing of all the elements.

Tim Armstrong – A Poet’s Life

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

I try to maintain a line between the art and the artist, and for the most part, am pretty careful not to fall into hero worship, while also not sacrificing my principles just because someone happens to be able to write a nice song. I am 100% creeped out by the fact that Armstrong, in his 30s, married 18 year old Brody Dalle, whom he met when she was 16. Given the ugly split that followed, I can only assume that any actual sexual abuse of a minor would’ve been reported. Or at least I can reasonably move forward with no knowledge that such occurred. Still, it makes me extremely uncomfortable. As an artist, I love Armstrong. I am a big Rancid (though not an Operation Ivy) fan, and I was very happy to find this solo album. And then I was happy to find that it was a ska album (and if it is also rocksteady or whatever, then, you know, sorrynotsorry). Armstong seems very much like he is super comfortable just doing whatever he feels like. I wasn’t familiar with the backing band here – the Aggrolites – but I get the sense that they view Armstrong, not unreasonably, as an elder statesman. I like the fact that as he has aged his look has gotten weirder and weirder, and I approve of the Gretsch that he plays.

What I Think of This Album

The first few tracks here are killer. “Wake Up” is a loping, catchy number with Armstrong’s raspy and half-enunciated vocals calling out to a misguided friend (or partner). “Hold On” is an organ-driven gem, and “Into Action” features sunny horns parts and the surprise vocals of Skye Sweetnam urging you to get off the couch (as well as a sly reference to Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”). By the way, the credits are next-to-impossible to read; you’re going to need an internet connection to figure that shit out.

Overall, Armstrong sounds great, even if you can’t always tell what he is saying, and the band is tight; the musicianship here is excellent and the production comes as close to authentic sounding as you could hope for (the dubby accents that pop up here and there are priceless).

“Take This City” has a great arrangement, while “Translator” and “Lady Demeter” slow things down a bit, the former making wise use of backing vocals and the latter maybe sounding a bit like “A Message to You, Rudy” (popularized by the Specials) in the opening horn strains and rhythm. “Inner City Violence” is more reggae than ska, and I don’t care for reggae, but it’s pretty good. “Among the Dead” also sounds a bit derivative – yeah, I understand, this is Tim Armstrong’s ska album from 2007 – but it’s no less enjoyable for it. This is basically a well executed, feel-good album, which I think is what you want from ska.

The Best Thing About This Album

This is a tough call. There is a lot here to like. I’m going to have to go with “Into Action.” Respect.

Release Date

May, 2007

The Cover Art

Meh. A bit too stark given what’s inside, and the lack of sharpness is annoying. The font is silly.

Arlo – Up High In the Night

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

This is the first band in my collection (if we are going alphabetically, and we are) that I have seen live. I am pretty sure they were on a triple bill at the Abbey Pub with the Waxwings and maybe the Wedding Present? I don’t know much about them. They were one of those early 2000s bands that came and went, never making much of an impression – not even on the few of us who cared enough to buy an album and trek to the Abbey Pub. That said, you shouldn’t pity them – they made two albums on Sub Pop and opened for Wilco and the Foo Fighters. They weren’t bad; they just never made it. Arlo had its origins in Texas (before moving to California) and is essentially two guys (Nate Greely and Sean Spillane) who share vocal, guitar, and songwriting duties. One of them now does mostly film and tv scores; the other guy, I don’t know.

What I Think of This Album

This is essentially power-pop through an indie filter, with a decidedly California feel. The songs are catchy, the harmonies are pretty good, and the guitars are appropriately loud. The lyrics tend to jokiness sometimes, which can be annoying – it sounds like the band is hedging its bets. But there are some really fun songs here, with sufficient variety in the guitar sound and rhythms to keep things interesting. “Nerf Bear Bonanza” has a winning, shaggy exuberance (though I have to force myself to overlook the use of the word “hoochies”); the “Lucy, Lucy, light me on fire” refrain really gets me, for some reason. “Forgotten” is a punchy, driving number, and “Sittin’ on the Aces” adds a hint of welcome dissonance. “Lucid” is a foreboding tune with a bit of swoon to its vocal melody. “Shutterbug” approaches cleverness and the swooping “ooh ooh ooh oohs” riding machine gun snare drum fills may be the best thing on here. “Loosen Up” is impossible not to sing along to. Points deducted for pronouncing “Elena” as “Ah-LEE-nah.”

The Best Thing About This Album

“Shutterbug” is a snapshot of greatness.

Release Date

January, 2001

The Cover Art

Meh. It’s not bad but it’s not good, either. The birds are nice, I guess. But way too generic and bland.

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.

Archers of Loaf – Icky Mettle

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

I loved this band because they were noisy and strange and anonymous and full of destructive dark energy. Four regular dudes from North Carolina unleashing jagged fragments of junkyard guitar with raspy shouts about who knows what, and I wasn’t sure if they were angry (probably), mocking (also probably), or completely unhinged (doubtful but not impossible). Their first two albums were barbed wire-wrapped declarations of purpose. Not to dismiss the contributions of the rhythm section, but the two Erics – Bachman and Johnson – are the true heroes of this band.

What I Think of This Album

Right from the get-go, Archers of Loaf warn you that “there’s a chance that things will get weird” and then guilelessly start chanting about wanting to “be your spine.” Things definitely get stranger, and you’re never quite sure what this band’s intention is. What you do know is it sounds amazing. How four guys can create this much chaos and still retain a sense of melody is astonishing.

Bachman’s voice is far from a thing of beauty but when he is yelling 90% of the time, it doesn’t really matter and as a shouter, he has just the right level of oxidation on his vocal cords. “Web in Front” is an indie-rock classic, with its off-kilter lyrics, sardonic asides, and lo-fi sonics. “Last Word” hews closer to a classic Archers of Loaf sound, with opening tom rolls generating the sense of being lost at sea, before you drown in the waves of guitar noise. “Wrong” is another standout, a breakup song full of bile and self-loathing. “You and Me” is deceptively mellow until some stunning guitar abuse appears at the one minute mark. “Might” is a jumpy meta-song of self-doubt, with more stellar fretwork from Johnson, and “Hate Paste” is a sludgy, ominous anthem. Really, the first half of this album is fantastic. Things get considerably darker thereafter. “Learo, You’re a Hole” is a disturbed, piercing rant that would make Trent Reznor swallow nervously. “Toast” is an art-rock exploration of existential dread (“there’s something wrong with my toast”) that explodes into a frenzy of strumming. I would be remiss if I did not point out that “Plumb Line” is a tuneful if possibly misogynistic rant (and that it comes on the heels of the definitely misogynistic throwaway “Fat” doesn’t help).

This was recorded at the wonderfully-named Kraptone Studios.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Wrong” is the song that gets each of the Archers of Loaf into heaven.

Release Date

September, 1993

The Cover Art

This is a fairly hideous cover. There is no element that I approve of. Not even a little. What’s more, it also feels very much of its time. I could possibly be talked into believing that it sort of hints at the mess of guitar noise that awaits inside, but I’d have to be drunk.

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