Classic Video of the Week: Archers of Loaf
Second-tier alt-rockers hold up surprisingly well.
On February 21, Merge Records is reissuing Vee Vee, the second (and for my money, best) album by '90s alt-rockers Archers of Loaf. Seeing this video again -- which I think I saw maybe twice on MTV's old 120 Minutes show in my college apartment in Portales, New Mexico back in 1995 when the album first came out -- I have to admit that I'm pleasantly surprised: both the song and the video are a lot more interesting and clever than I remembered them being at the time.
Although they were part of the fairly hopping Chapel Hill indie scene, Archers of Loaf had a number of strikes against them back in the mid '90s. First and foremost was the awful band name. (I always assumed it was some vague reference to the phrase "shooting the shit.") Secondly, they were on Alias Records, a label that had some terrific bands -- American Music Club, The Loud Family, even Yo La Tengo for one album -- but apparently had neither the money nor the know-how to get them noticed.
But finally, there was just a sense of alt-rock overload by 1995. There was an early sense of excitement at the dawn of the decade -- say, roughly between the release of Sonic Youth's Goo in the summer of 1990 and Nirvana's Nevermind in the fall of '91 -- when it was clear that a number of formerly underground bands were about to break big. But after Nevermind's enormous commercial success, it suddenly seemed like every band who had ever worn Chuck Taylors in their press photo got a major-label contract.
The first thing we learned was that there were bands out there who should never have been signed to big labels. For example, another Alias Records band, Too Much Joy, signed to Warner Brothers and made two albums' worth of slickly-produced power pop tunes that now sound horribly dated now in a way Archers of Loaf's albums do not. Tons of worthy bands -- along with just as many bandwagon jumpers -- got chewed up and spat out in the space of about three years.
Though Archers of Loaf thankfully avoided that instant-death experience, they had the misfortune to be active on the indie scene at a time when bands like Pavement, Superchunk and Guided By Voices were at the top of their game. As likeable as this quirky little bit of mid-'90s indie rock is -- in some ways, it feels like a precursor to the albums Neutral Milk Hotel and The Olivia Tremor Control were about to start releasing -- it's more of an endearing curio than anything else.
I'm not crazy about the reissue's new manga-styled artwork, though.
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