Friday, May 25, 2012

Drive Time: Archers of Loaf - Icky Mettle

I hosted a show called “Alternative Flashback” on KJHK and I never even gave a fuck about Archers of Loaf. How did that happen? Gabe Holcomb and Justin Brown would be sad. And Andy Green, who hosted the show after I graduated. All three of those bros for sure had devoured Icky Mettle. I’m sure I had my merits, but I didn’t know enough. Mostly because all I ever knew about college rock came from listening to Gabe and Justin’s “Alternative Flashback” shows the couple years before I got it. And I don’t know where the hell Archers of Loaf ever were in my upbringing. I remember there was this mystical CD-R that played in my weird clock radio when I was a Junior/Senior in high school and it was full of MP3’s I’d snagged from Audiogalaxy and this was the one CD-R that played in the aforementioned weird clock radio and it had “Don’t Stop Now” by Guided by Voices and “Cut Your Hair” by Pavement and “Getchoo” by Weezer and some Archers of Loaf song I can’t even remember but there was a time and a place and somehow Archers of Loaf got left out.

But they seeped in, in little ways. Like the Crooked Fingers song “Sleep All Summer,” which was a mainstay during a nasty breakup. And then Alkaline Trio covered “Web in Front” on one of the very first episodes of the AV Club’s “Undercover” covers series and I was hooked. Not just because Dan Adriano was the perfect person to cover that song, and that it meshed with a skill-set I was familiar with, but because I realized I’d already kinda loved Erich Bachmann to begin with. Icky Mettle was acquired, but more importantly, Crooked Fingers’ latest LP Breaks in the Armor became a stalwart in the car on the iPod at the gym. And then Icky Mettle ended up in the iPod at the gym and about half that album was about just perfect for running.

The way the guitars on "Might" just fucking kill you, that's what I'm talking about. Like right before the chorus, do you know what I'm saying? All that goddamn dissonance! And the song is only two minutes long! Just so much angst embedded in that riffage and chordage! Beautiful to the max god it makes me wanna explode yes!

It’s a weird record. So all over the place despite sounding like a unified whole. Up and down and up and down and up and down. In the car, it’s a fucking perfect drive-to-work record. The concept of the drive-to-work record has always excited me, ever since I was like 16 listened to Black Flag’s Nervous Breakdown EP on cassette on my way to work at AMC Studio 30. That music you listen to before you go make money is extremely important. It’s like getting pumped up before the Olympics or the Super Bowl or some shit. Gotta get your head in the right place. Sometimes NPR just isn’t doing it. Know what I mean?

So Archers of Loaf. So Icky Mettle. So this album is a weird schizophrenic baby, but schizophrenic in the I-am-basically-talking-about-multiple-personalties. It’s up and down forever. Hit then weird jam then hit again. “Web in Front,” “Wrong,” “Might” and “Plumb Line” are some of the purest indie-rock slash pop jams of the era, I’d say. And not just about one goddamn thing! Which is exciting! “Web in Front” plays like one of those amazing 90s era break-up jams and though “Wrong” sorta sound like on eat first it becomes a companion piece to Superchunk’s “Slack Motherfucker” due to the Chapel Hill connection and the general speak about certain co-workers not, shall we say, working as hard as they should. A universal feeling, I’d say.

Oh yeah it was Aaron Dessner from the Nation and Annie Clark of St. Vincent that did the cover of "Sleep All Summer." Ung. Fuck this song. "I can change for you but babe that doesn't mean I'm gonna be a better man." Who writes like that? Seriously, Eric Bachmann, you win. I quit.

The album’s charm lies in how all-over-the-place it is. It tries to do everything at once and it still sounds like a muddy (I mean that as a compliment), angsty, mid-90s indie rock record. Eric Bachmann’s songwriting has grown and grown over the years to sadly not enough damn acclaim but the hits on this record really hit. “Web in Front,” despite all its mysteries (read: bizarre lyrics) still captures some very precise emotions that I don’t think have been better captured since (see: “And there’s a chance that things will get weird/ Yeah that’s a possibility/ Although I didn’t do anything/ No I didn’t do anything/ All I ever wanted was to be your spine”). Ironically, in another AV Club series (“One Track Mind”) Bachmann played this song and talked about how weird and nonsensical the lyrics were, but he still played it and recognized that it was important. And that’s my favorite kinda songwriting. The kind that doesn’t set out to be profound but stuns the masses regardless.

And back to the beginning. The blurb refers to Alk 3 as "pop-punk kingpins" which seems like a way of softening the blow of the pop-punk tag which isn't really all that bad or shit, even bad at all, when you get down to it. I've gotta funny story about meeting Matt Skiba at the Replay Lounge, so maybe I'm biased. But this cover kills, and I will always rally for Dan Adriano because dammit I think the man's under-appreciated. No one else sings like that. No one! 

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