April 28, 2005

The Pretty Toney Column

Print More

When people list bands to be included in the pantheon of ’90s indie rock, you’re almost guaranteed to hear the names Pavement, Guided by Voices, Built to Spill, and Yo La Tengo. From there you’ve got your one-album wonders like Neutral Milk Hotel and Slint, among others. (I’m not trying to start a debate here, so restrain yourself.) You’ll get no qualms about any of those choices from me, but there’s one band I love dearly that is almost never included in these discussions. The band I’m referring to, of course, is Archers of Loaf.

I’ve long wondered why this is. From 1994-96, when Archers of Loaf were in their prime, any new music not played on The X went basically unheard by me (recall that Bush was more popular than Jesus during these years), so I have no idea how they were accepted in their time. Having perused through some old reviews, the reception couldn’t have been all that bad. Christgau gave their first two albums A’s after all. Yet it still seems as though they’ve been forgotten.

Comparing them to Built to Spill, I can’t see a difference. Built to Spill made three great albums and, for all intents and purposes, have since faded into oblivion. Archers of Loaf essentially had the same career path. Icky Mettle, Vee Vee and All the Nation’s Airports are all outstanding. They eventually broke up, and frontman Eric Bachmann went on to perform as Crooked Fingers. In fact, Crooked Fingers features are about the only place Archers of Loaf are mentioned any more. I’m not sure where I’m going with this; I’m just getting frustrated.

But I did bring with me irrefutable proof that Archers of Loaf were among the best of the best: “Web in Front,” “Wrong,” “Underdogs of Nipomo,” “White Trash Heroes,” etc. But the greatest Archers of Loaf song of all is undoubtedly “Harnessed in Slums,” a veritable blueprint for what all straight-forward rock should have sounded like in the ’90s. I suppose that the no-frills nature of “Harnessed in Slums” could represent one of the knocks on Archers of Loaf, that their sound generally wasn’t all that original. How stupid. I challenge you to not pump your fist upon hearing this.

Normally when a truly good band isn’t widely loved or appreciated, it’s for silly reasons pertaining to their accessibility. Archers of Loaf have no such problems. They’re the quintessential indie-punk band, and I implore you to rekindle the flickering flames of their once devout and vocal fanbase.

Archived article by Ross McGowan
Sun Staff Writer