Beer and Pavement

The Archers of Loaf Oeuvre, part 3

Posted in Records by SM on February 22, 2011

This is the third of three parts of the Archers of Loaf oeuvre. Some of these tracks have already been reviewed. So, I’ve simply marked those as already seeing BICTBAP treatment. Also, you should know that I was up until almost 1 AM this morning finishing this freaking post. Work’s been crazy, I have had very little sleep, and this one in the series took some listening and reading. So, check it and recognize.

EPs and other collections
Vs the Greatest of All Time (Alias, 1994) – Seriously. This EP has to be one of the greatest EP’s of all time. From the band of many great segues, Vs transitions from the heartbreak of Icky Mettle to the blue-collar anger of Vee Vee. Ironically, “The Greatest of All-Time” does not appear on this release.

“Audiowhore” – A&R guys, producers, agents, whoever leaches off bands, those are the audio whores. This is a running theme throughout Loaf’s material. They came up in a time when it was wondered who would be the next Nirvana. There was a time Archers of Loaf were courted by Madonna’s Maverick Records. This also marked a turn from break-up songs to railing over major labels.

“Lowest Part Is Free!” – This phrase reminds me of the “lowest common denominator,” something A&R and major labels look to hit with each new signing. The band was pretty clearly anti-major label at this point, pretty sick of the whole scene.

“Freezing Point” – Sometimes the best way to move on from a breakup is to literally move on. Doing an east coast tour, getting out of town might be the best way to get out of Dodge, or Chapel Hill. This song could have closed Icky Mettle, but it would have overshadowed even that album’s strongest tracks and would have changed the narrative drastically. It works better on this ‘tweener of an EP.

“Revenge” – Despite being an all-time, great, punk rawk stomp, “Revenge” awkwardly changes subjects from the Icky Mettle-breakup to the working class fight songs of Vee Vee. Still, like all the tracks on this EP, it stands on its own.

“All Hail the Black Market” – The band’s disgust over leaches, hangers-on, liars, jerks, whatever are called out. This song is loaded with disgust like few have ever accomplished. It’s an interesting end to a pretty charged record, particularly right before their “protest” record.

The Speed of Cattle (Alias, 1996) – Few rarities, b-side compilations are this good or this jam-packed with as many great tracks as this one. Honestly, few of these collections are released during a band’s prime like this one. Plus, there are a few new versions of some of their best songs.


“South Carolina” – A sort of call to arms with their neighbors to the south, South Carolina was part of one of the band’s earliest singles. It was the B-side to Loaf’s “Wrong” single. I discovered the band through a rehashed version of this song on the My So-Called Life soundtrack, purchased for me as a joke. This song is no joke.

“Web In Front”*

“Bathroom” – Ah, a speed-metal track about really having to go to the bathroom while driving between stops. I know this feeling as I’ve always been the one to wait until I absolutely had to go. It seems the band is just taking a piss, so to speak.

“Tatyana” – This is a narrative about a domestic violence situation, possibly both Russian immigrants (Tatyana). It’s pretty graphic and suggests its anti-abuse and not condoning it. Besides, from what I know and have learned about the band, I feel pretty safe in saying the song is anti-domestic violence.

“What Did You Expect?” – Getting all tied up in a shitty situation? What did you expect? This one’s from a Merge release. Why they could never find their way onto that label will forever escape me.

“Ethel Merman” – Bachman seems to be identifying with Ethel Merman, a huge film star and incredible talent of her time. I suspect her death brought on a death to the golden era of entertainment. Johnny Franklin possibly refers to the actor in Children of the Corn. I suppose both refer to Bachman’s insecurities and inevitable downfall. Still, it’s got a nice hook. Archers of Loaf had the following to say about the whole thing, which actually makes way more sense than what I thought:

This song is about this guy in Tallahassee, Florida who apparently lost control one day and took a sledgehammer or some re-bar to the Florida state radio station. I have no idea what Ethel Merman has to do with anything. Perhaps we had an image of all these Ethel Merman recordings getting smashed and broken apart by some angry listener.

“Funnelhead” – An epic build leads to a Bachman holler. And what is a Funnelhead? Fuck. I don’t know. It’s late. He sees beyond black and white and catches all the shit or something. I’m not even sure what Bachman’s hollering through most of it. It is a beautiful, Afghan Whigs-ish anthem, somehow. What I do know is that it’s a Treepeople cover. That alone is pretty cool.

“Quinn Beast” – According to the liner notes, this one is about a woman who stepped in front of Bachman at a Shoney’s breakfast bar and took the last plate. She eventually figured it out and was not too happy.

“Telepathic Traffic” – Long intro…Sonically, this track would have fit nicely on Vee Vee. Crushing anxiety caused by traffic, all kinds of traffic: noise, light, cars, that line of ducklings following their mother across the street, etc. There’s just too much of it.

“Don’t Believe The Good News” -“There’s a dog on this track.” It’s the end of a long night of partying. The hangover is setting in long before you pass out on the bathroom floor. Things seem generally good, but all the depressants you just shoved down your throat help you see the truth that things actually suck right now.

“Smokin’ Pot In The Hot City” – Instrumental about, well, you know.

“Mutes In The Steeple” – There are a lot of shitty things in this world. We try to make the best of it, but we can’t ignore injustice and wrong. Ironically, this is often how we know that we’re alive.

“Revenge” – ^

“Bacteria” – Seven minutes of hate and disgust. You remember all the times that person was at his/her ugliest. This feeling fuels a move, a song, a feeling you can’t deny. Really, if you ever have to hate anyone for seven minutes (possibly including yourself), listen to this song and flail about. The dynamics of this song are so intense and just incredible. I’m just glad it saw the light of day despite the difficulty the band had finding space for it on a record.

“Freezing Point” – ^

“Powerwalker” – Let’s make fun of powerwalking. You know you’ve done it. This is your theme song.

“Backwash” -*

Vitus Tinnitus (Alias, 1997) – Ah, one of my prized 10″ records. Nothing too new or ground-breaking here, but it was a good find nonetheless. The first six tracks were recorded live and the last two were remixed. No explanations are needed.
“Harnessed In Slums” – **
“Underdogs Of Nipomo” -**
“Greatest Of All Time” -**
“Form and File” -***
“Audiowhore” -^
“Nostalgia” -**
“Vocal Shrapnel (Remix)” -***
“Scenic Pastures (Remix)” -***




Seconds Before the Accident (Alias, 2000) – This was exactly how Archers of Loaf sounded live. One can’t go wrong with this release (or the one mentioned above) when searching out live material. In fact, I’m pretty sure this was basically the same set they played when I saw them on the same tour. What a great, great live band Archers of Loaf were/are. I may have to write more about this set list or the one they recently played in Chapel Hill.
Dead Red Eyes -****
Fabricoh -**
Vocal Shrapnel -***
Web In Front -*
Let The Loser Melt -**
Strangled By The Stereo Wire -***
Fashion Bleeds -****
You And Me -*
Might -*
Revenge -^
South Carolina -^
Lowest Part Is Free -^
Plumb Line -*
Wrong -*
White Trash Heroes -****
Chumming The Oceans -***

Wrong/South Carolina (Stay Free, 1992) -*^
Web in Front/Bathroom/Tatyana (Alias, 1993) -*^
The Results After the Loafs Revenge: What Did You Expect/Ethel Merman (Merge, 1994) -^
Funnelhead/Quinnbeast split with Treepeople, (Sonic Bubblegum, 1994) -^
Harnessed in Slums/ Telepathic Traffic (Alias, 1995) -**^
Mutes in the Steeple/Smoking Pot in the Hot City (Esther, 1995) -^

Vocal Shrapnel/Density (Alias, 1996) -*** -I don’t think I wrote about this one. It’s available on this 7″ and the vinyl version of All Nations Airports, of which I actually have a picture disc. Anyway, it’s synth-heavy and sounds like an old TV show theme song. It fits nicely thematically-speaking with “Audiowhore” or “Telepathic” and some of the marching-like tracks on Vee Vee, but I’m not sure where it really fits in this oeuvre.

Jive Kata (Alias, 1997) -One of the most unique and oddest of the Loaf oevre, I always forget that this song exists. Hell, I forgot that I own this record. It’s so different from anything they ever did, but I remember appreciating how much it reminded me of Brainiac – another post for another time. There’s a hint as to what their final album would be like, but this track is even light years away from that. The b-side is a live version of “Slow Worm” from the same set that brought us Vitus.

As always, let me know where I’m right and where I missed the mark. I liked doing this. It was easier and quicker than my attempt at a Pavement oeuvre blog (which I may still salvage one of these days). Comments are welcome. Free beer and records are welcomerest.

*Icky Mettle
**Vee Vee
***All the Nations Airports
****White Trash Heroes
^See above.

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  1. […] another day. On this blog, I once wrote three posts discussing the complete catalog of Archers of Loaf. However, today, I intend to take on the oeuvre of one Stephen Malkmus and his ever-faitful Jicks. […]

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