Archers of Loaf - Vee Vee

by Andy Brown Rating:8 Release Date:2012-03-19

Vee Vee was the second album released by Chapel Hill indie-rock legends Archers of Loaf back in the hazy, latter-day grunge-infatuated days of 1995. The band, like a host of their peers, decided to reform recently (although their website claims they never really broke up) and this has inspired the re-issues of their back-catalogue. It's easy to be cynical about bands reforming, but for me this is a chance to hear a band I completely missed out on the first time around, and the inspiring, rough-around-the edges, punk-rock splendour of Vee Vee. Vee Vee certainly has little to do with the apathy of the American 90s rock phenomenon known as grunge.

Archers of Loaf sometimes draw comparisons with alt-rock legends Pavement but, despite sharing a few musical tricks, they're quite a different proposition overall. As a friend, and long-time Loaf fan, told me recently, Archers of Loaf were always a whole lot angrier than Pavement and in his opinion a better band (At this point I obviously told him to calm down and think about what he was saying). My friend's zealous defending of the Loaf's place in history was justified, however, and Vee Vee is indeed an angry, literate, funny and inspired indie-rock gem of an album.

For those new to Archers of Loaf, like myself, I suggest you file them somewhere between the earnest, indie-rock stylings of Calvin Johnsons' Beat Happening, the limber punk rock of Minutemen and those sacred purveyors of all things honest in music, Fugazi. In-fact, the band would fit quite neatly into the indie-underground bible that is Michael Azerrads' Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991.

Vee Vee opens with the misleadingly calm 'Step into the Light', which does actually remind me of Pavement. There're the subtle harmonies, the intricate yet shambling guitar parts and the whispered and cryptic lyrics. It's a really gorgeous track. With 'Harnessed in Slums', the band blows away the momentary calm with a moody, punk rock slab of righteous, gruff-voiced glory. The lyrics manage to be bitter yet defiant as Eric Bachmann sings, "We're running joke, running jokes, running dry". 'Nevermind the Enemy' starts with a brilliant stop-start riff and Bachmann singing, "…I can call it off any time I want to". Maybe good advice if the reunion goes wrong.

The next track, 'Greatest of all Time' (referencing the name of their debut EP) is a definite album highlight. It's a beautiful underdog's lament with Bachmann howling, "They caught and drowned the frontman of the world's worst rock 'n' roll band/ He was out of luck, because nobody gave a fuck". Like a more serious take on Pavements 'Cut Your Hair', 'Greatest of All Time' takes a long hard look at the scene around it and declares, "The underground is overcrowded".

The album is full of incredible moments, with the band's energy rarely letting up and Bachmann shredding his voice all in the name of the indie-rock underground. Other highlights for me include the almost-anthemic, 'Floating Friends' with Bachmann singing, "They were always sincere, hip to the freshest ideas". It's the kind of song you can't believe isn't a much better known indie-rock dancefloor standard. 'Fabricoh' could be Husker Du-loving punk rock heroes Leatherface, while 'Nostalgia' takes a Fugazi shaped hammer to the mere idea of retrospection (perhaps failing to see the benefits of reissues back in '95).

On 'Let the Loser Melt' Bachmann sings, "It's too bad that your music doesn't matter", but this is music that really does matter. Heartfelt, upset and self-aware Vee Vee is an incredible album. There's not enough room to go into every reason why this album is so special here; it really needs its own chapter in Our Band Could Be Your Life. Vee Vee has served as my introduction to Archers of Loaf; this could be the start of something beautiful…

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