Wednesday, February 16, 2005
  I can't believe this was over a decade ago.

Archers of Loaf "Bag"
Archers of Loaf "Pile of Dirt"
Archers of Loaf "Raincoat"

We got back in town around nine o’clock on a Saturday night. LD, Chuck Goodyear, and I immediately drove downtown to the long-gone Midtown Music Hall, tucked away inside a strip-mall somewhere in the heart of Atlanta. Two of us were still seventeen, and were fearful that our beard and VSU cards wouldn’t fool the doorman into thinking we were old enough to be granted entry. There were no problems, though, and soon enough we were standing inside the club, a good hour and a half before any music started. We were complete idiots, and actually expected a show to start relatively on time. And because we were under 21, we couldn’t venture into the bar side, and had to stand in the otherwise vacant club area for a half hour or so before somebody showed up. Some awkward times, for sure.

It was worth it, of course. After missing their show with Superchunk at the Masquerade a year earlier, I finally got to see my then favorite band, Archers of Loaf. It was great, of course, and I remember having a hell of a time, but, to be honest, I don’t really remember anything else. I don’t even remember what the club looked like, or where it was located. There are certain songs I’m sure they played, but I can’t definitely recall anything specific about the show. I think they played all of the Vs. the Greatest of All Time ep, which was, like, the most amazing record I’d ever heard when I was a dumbass kid, but I don’t have a single concrete memory. Oh, wait, I do remember the beeping part on ”Nevermind the Enemy”, a song that hadn’t even come out yet. And Matt Gentling told some bad joke about the Grateful Dead. But other than that it’s all been lost. Fuckin’ nuts. I’d see them a dozen or so more times over the next three years, under more memorable circumstances (hey Ice, our city’s blowing up – let’s drive to North Carolina to see some bands play!), so maybe that has something to do with the near total blankness.

But, so, dude. I loved this band to an embarrassing degree. All-encompassingly. I’d drive all over to see them, once catching them four times in two weeks. More so than Pavement or GBV or Yo la Tengo, the Archers were my main band through high school and college. And with Crooked Fingers, Eric Bachmann is still cranking out some essential stuff. My devotion runs deep, and has never wavered. So it makes sense that, during my brief foray into tape-trading, the Archers were one of my primary targets. They weren’t a great band for bootleggers; they didn’t have many rarities, didn’t do a lot of radio shows, and their concerts barely differed from the albums, or each other. Very unlike Pavement, whose live detritus still floats along at various websites. But there were a few tapes of interest, and one of them was a 1992 Chapel Hill show from early in the band’s history. Alongside a handful of songs that would pop up on Icky Mettle, and a few b-sides like “South Carolina” and “Powerwalker”, are three songs that have never been released. They might not even have been recorded.

Of the three, the one referred to as “Bag” is probably the best (no idea where that name came from; that’s what the guy who sent me the tape called it). “Bag” kind of sounds more like Small, Bachmann’s other band at the time, than the Archers, but Eric Johnson’s squealing, echoing guitar solo is immediately recognizable. Not a great song, but better than some of the ones that did get released from this period. The ugly sounding “Pile of Dirt” has that dramatic quality found in “Tatiana” and “Quinnbeast” that Bachmann started using to much greater effect after growing out of his collegiate angst. ”Raincoat”’s better than “Pile of Dirt”, but still full of unseemly anger and awkward verses. The chorus is fine, though, one of the catchier and more straight-forward moments in the Archers’ early catalogue.

So other than “Bag”, this stuff isn’t really all that great. One can understand why the band never released “Pile of Dirt” or “Raincoat”, even though neither is as bad as “Powerwalker” or “Tatiana”. As a nerdishly obsessive fan, though, I find value in even the least of Bachmann’s works. Subpar Archers still hits me in a way most bands never could. Also, after listening to their official releases several thousand times each, it’s refreshing to have some AOL material that I’m not completely familiar with, even if it’s far from their best work.

Anyway, the new Crooked Fingers album is out on Tuesday. I hope to have a song up in a day or two, if possible.
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