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Vee Vee


Archers of Loaf



Release Date:


Reviewed by:
  PostLibyan and Tracers  

Continuing our review of the entire Archers of Loaf catalog in preparation for their impending reunion tour, we bring you a lenghty review of the second full-length record.


This is, to me, the quintessential Archers of Loaf record.  It is their classic, and in fact is one of the high points of 1990s indie rock.  It's one of those records that i just pull down and listen to every once in a while just for the heck of it.  To me, this is a fun album to play and bounce along with during the long Southern summers.  It's a fun, energetic album to play with friends.

So, unlike the previous two releases that i have reviewed, this is the one Archers record i am still familiar with.  I know every word and note on the damned thing.

  I wholly concur. In fact, as we were working our way through the Archers catalogue, I realized I misplaced my copy of Vee Vee. And then I realized it didn't matter, because I already know every note of this record. (Side note: I did find my copy eventually, so I'm not actually writing this one blind.)  

Vee Vee is also the first fully Archers of Loaf record. that is to say, When i go back and listen to records that preceded this one, i hear a young band sorting through their influences to make their own way. On Vee Vee Eric Bachman has figured out who he is a song writer, and started crafting tunes that are little stories, almost like folk-songs. The rest of the band, for their part, have realized that there is more to life than heavy metal and hardcore punk. Vee Vee is a record of long, stretched out meandering jams that last minutes, the band just playing around and having fun. Sure, the old touchstones are there, but this is new.

It starts, appropriately enough, with Step Into the Light a song that begins with a long, meandering guitar intro with the band singing "ooh" lightly. Then Eric Bachman sings, clearly and quietly, not growling or yelling, just sort of lightly speaking the words as the guitars spiral with more "ooh"-ing. It's really a pretty song, and indicative of the new direction the band are going in.

And then, with a clattering of guitar chords and a shouted "Two!", the Archers tear into what i think is their best song, the classic Harnessed In Slums. One of my fondest memories of any live show ever is seeing Superchunk at The Echo Lounge back in 1999 with Eric Bachman's Crooked Fingers project opening, and on the encore Bachman took Jim Wilbur's guitar, Wilbur grabbed the mic, leaned out over the crowd, and Superchunk tore into this song with a couple hundred drunk indie rockers bouncing up and down like crazy and screaming along with the words: "Thugs and scum and punks and freaks / Are harnessed in slums but they want to be free!" This is one of my favorite rock songs of the 1990s, a real anthem: upbeat, fast and catchy.

  I often think that if you say "Archers Of Loaf" to your average Indie Rocker of a certain age, Harnessed in Slums is the tune that inevitably pops to mind. It's the Platonic form of an Archers song with chanted choruses, angular guitar, thuddingly melodic bassline, and a fast pace. Add into this the bridge that PostLibyan mentions above (and the lines he didn't quote: "side to side with a tired smile cut into your face, you let me down for the second time straight"), and it is truly a beautifully angry song, with all the melodies going in weird directions before rounding back at the end.  

The next song starts, inexplicably, with that high-pitched sound of a truck backing up. Nevermind the Enemy, is a great poppy tune with odd noise on the chorus. I must confess that i always thought the backing voice on the chorus was another band member yelling incoherently, but since i put this record on my Zune and have been listening to it on headphones, i discovered that the weird vocal noise is, apparently, Eric Bachman's voice backwards masked. I wonder what he is saying on this hidden message? (Brendan's Note: Paul's dead?) Anyway, i like the guitars here, which chime in two melodic lines.

Then comes Greatest of All Time which, oddly enough, was not on the EP that it shares a title with. That's strange, but this is a damned great song that starts off slowly, almost hesitantly as Bachman croons "They caught and drowned the front man, of the world's worst rock and roll band" in a paranoid self-deprecating moment. The song builds with a loping beat to a noisy climax of clattering guitars as Bachman tells a strange story about rock stardom. It ends with Bachman chanting "The underground is overcrowded" in a strangely prophetic moment.

  Another mighty fine tune that just begs to be sung along with. I don't know how many times in the last (mumble, mumble) years, PostLibyan and I have been driving somewhere and we find ourselves yelping "Way up in the sky is the leader of the Greatest band of all time..." It may say more about the ubiquitous nature of this album in our lives (see also Foolish by Superchunk), but I'll take it nevertheless.  

Underdogs of Nipomo is the most angular song on this record, the closest The Archers get to math-rock on this album, and yet they still seem to make it feel catchy. Angular, clattering guitars with an upbeat melody.

  Next to Harnessed in Slums, Underdogs of Nipomo is my favorite song on Vee Vee. If Let the Loser Melt was PostLibyan's personal them song in the mid 90s, then this one (with its lyrical references to nachos, microbrews, soundmen, and being so much better at forcing the matter) was mine. In particular, the way the three alternating sections of the this song (the opening, the "chorus" which cuts in at about one minute, and the final bridge) are each compelling in their own right. Taken as a whole, this tune shows that the Archers did very well joining up various disparate parts and coming up with something amazingly catchy and bouncy.  

Floating Friends is a pop song with a nice chanted chorus. I think on this song the non-Bachman voices are clearest, or maybe it is just that his voice is fuzzy and lost in the guitar fog.

1985 is a strange interlude of organ and guitar feedback, almost like something from Bachman's Barry Black project. It serves as a good buffer zone, protecting the previous couple of pop tunes from the hardcore riffing that is to come next.

Fabricoh almost reminds me of Sick File off of Icky Mettle, a sort of drunken fast riffed punk anthem, while Nostalgia is just the band channeling Black Flag at their most primal, all power chords and shouting. I suppose that is appropriate for them, since as a group they are likely to be nostalgic for the hardcore punk of their teenage years. Both of these tunes seem to be here to remind you that they are the same band that made Icky Mettle, and that's fine.

  There are folks who really love the one-two punch of Fabricoh and Nostalgia. I think that it's because these tunes are so very punk-ish while still being proto-Indie. Thinking back, the charm goes a bit beyond that. Yes, everything is both noisy and loud, but the lyrics are incredibly intelligent and speak to the mid 90s experience. I mean, in the case of Fabricoh, I know I spent a lot of time back then looking at the crowd that was gathering and rocking out. Likewise, Nostalgia just harkens back to a certain time and place.  
  After the last droning chord of Nostalgia fades out, the two guitars start another loping tune, just the various instruments playing against each other in no real hurry for a few minutes. This song is Let the Loser Melt, and was kind of my personal theme song for the last half of the 1990s. "The first time, was the worst time. And the second time, was worse than the first." Indeed. Anyway, it builds and builds with a nice thunking bass riff, until suddenly it explodes with hard drumming, Bachman bellowing, and the rest of the band chanting as the guitars whirr away. It is messy, loud, and fun.  
  Let the Loser Melt is another damn fine song, where the guitars, bass, and drums go all sort of ways before coming back just in time for Bachmann to open with the lyrics quoted above, which are emphasized by an almost funny guitar slide. Likewise, when Bachmann bellows out "your music doesn't matter", you can almost feel palpable disdain rolling off the record.  

Death in the Park is next, and is a slower song with nice guitar interplay. Here Bachman stretches his lyrical muscles, singing, "Always the same people pissing the same people off". He can be witty when he wants to be.

It's back to the hardcore for The Worst Has Yet To Come, a few minutes of angry fast guitarwork and yelling, and then things get really weird. The album ends with the awesomely titled Underachievers March and Fight Song, which is the silliest song the Archers have done up until this point in their career, and maybe even afterwards. There is a plinking of what sounds like banjo, horns, and group whistling, all wrapped around a happy little melody. Good to know that they were not taking things too seriously...

  As I relisten to Vee Vee, I'm struck by the somewhat insular nature of the songs and most the lyrics. With continual references to bands and live music, it seems like one of the reason I especially relate to this record is because the subjects of the songs are ones I get. For instance, Death in the Park includes the slightly aggravated sounding line of "Sure, I can put you on the guest list" as well as the crack about "freaks in my home". I understand those sentiments as well as the other ones that references the music scene and its punks and freaks. Then, when you add in music that resonates sonically while still combining multiple elements, it's not so surprisingly that this album still feels fresh after all these years.  
  Overall, i think this record really holds up. This was a great record when i first heard it, and it still is to this day. If you only buy one Archers of Loaf record, make it Vee Vee.  
Related Links:

Artist: (fan site)
Also on EvilSponge:
   Album: Icky Mettle
   EP: Vs. The Greatest of All Time
   Compilation: The Speed of Cattle
   Album: All the Nations Airports
   Album: White Trash Heroes
   Live Album: Seconds before the Accident


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