I only narrowly missed out on Archers Of Loaf the first time around; I was listening to Oasis and Supergrass when they released ‘Vee Vee’ in 1995, and if they had hung around for one more album, like their almost direct contemporaries Sebadoh and Pavement, I would probably have caught them when I started listening to John Peel and eating scratchy American underground indie whole in 1999.

As it is, however, I missed them by a year – they became one of those bands I recognised the name of, could place into the relevant scene and context, but that I hadn’t ever listened to. They released a few albums, got a fair amount of praise in all the right places, and then – with little fanfare – broke up.

Fifteen years later, with the back catalogues of Pavement, Sebadoh and Sonic Youth having been comprehensively mined, it’s the turn of the slightlier dustier corners of the 90's scene to get the ‘remastered deluxe edition’ treatment. Archers Of Loaf’s debut album. 'Icky Mettle', was repackaged last year, followed now by the album commonly thought to be their best.

On ‘Icky Mettle’, the Archers had been scratchy and ramshackle – a sound that earned them Pavement comparisons; and got them dismissed in some quarters as mere copycats. They followed this with a five track EP, ‘Archers Of Loaf vs The Greatest In The World’, which saw them adopt a more strident sound, something more obviously all of their own. They also got sold out shows and radio airplay.

So, embarking on their second album, Archers Of Loaf had two choices – ride the wave, sign to the majors that were chasing them and try and break into the mainstream. Or stay on their small indie label, play up their quirks and try and out-pavement Pavement. Eric Bachman and his fellow Archers chose the latter path, very consciously. The songtitles are the giveaway – especially the closing duo of ‘The Worst Has Yet To Come’ and ‘Underachievers March and Fight Song’.

I suspect they won’t like the Pavement comparisons today any more than they did when this album came out, but they are hard to avoid. Bachman may have a whisky soaked rasp, where Stephen Malkmus has an ironic smirk; and the Archers are more likely to flick the pedals on and thrash about while Pavement opt for quirky soloing – but you could swap half the songs on 'Vee Vee' with half the songs on 'Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain' and it wouldn’t seem at all weird.

With an audience actively looking for bands to ignore the monkish limitations of FM radio rock, they had the license for songs like ‘Fabricoh’, which collapses in a heap of feedback and ‘Nostalgia’, a one minute thrash with Bachman screaming over the simplest of riffs.

And yet, ‘Let The Loser Melt’ has an effortless charm – built around a guitar style that would become a cliché by the end of the decade, with notes bent out before the tunes catches up. If they don’t quite have Pavement’s dynamic range, they make up for it with raw energy. On their best moments, Archers Of Loaf channel the ghosts of early 80's hardcore – rocking out with the muscularity of Mission of Burma or Husker Du.

It’s easy to see why the songs on the second disc didn’t make the cut for the album – but there’s plenty here to enjoy. Bachman gives his vocal chords a seeing too, while the band practice adding a hardcore clunk to their pop-punk buzz.

Eric Bachmann went on to explore country, folk and soul with his Crooked Fingers almost-solo project; but there will no doubt be a sizable audience delighted by this reissue, and by the Archers Of Loaf reformation that accompanies it.











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