Archers of Loaf - Reason in Decline Music Album Reviews

Archers of Loaf - Reason in Decline Music Album Reviews
On their first studio album in 24 years, the long-reunited Southern indie rockers make mighty, angry songs better suited for now than then.

How should the coveted bands of indie rock best reunite? Play the hits and relearn some curios, like Pavement? Pick up where they left off and barrel ahead, like Dinosaur Jr. when they reconvened their classic trio and slashed back to basics? Or should they, like Dylan Carlson’s renovated Earth, acknowledge that both they and the times have changed, that past sounds no longer suit them even if the mood remains much the same? Another possibility: sort through the successes and strikes of their bygone days, choose what still feels right, and see if it makes sense now, scrapping anything that feels like a mere simulacrum of then. That is the smart choice that Archers of Loaf made for the mighty Reason in Decline, not only their first studio album in 24 years but also a compelling testament to the way the old you and the new you can make one helluva tandem.

In the ’90s, North Carolina’s Archers of Loaf were the quintessential Southern indie rock band: powerful to the point of seeming brutish, but with an understated streak of sophistication; unflinchingly honest and critical, but with a grace note of wit. Releasing four albums (and a full-length B-sides set) in only six years, they careened wildly among gnarled jangle pop, urgent noise-rock, and snappy hardcore like Hüsker Dü’s younger country cousins, sometimes trying out samplers or sequencers in the madcap way of their moment. The tunefully churlish baritone of Eric Bachmann—a towering, glowering singer mad at love, the music industry, the olds, and pretty much everything else—strung it together, his voice frayed like an old piece of rope forever ready to snap.

And then it did. Despite dalliances with the mainstream and Robert Christgau’s unequivocal endorsement (“other indie bands should just retire”), Archers couldn’t sustain their post-adolescent ire into the new millennium. They broke up right before it began, just as Bachmann softened his stentorian roar into a curious croon in the great chamber-folk act Crooked Fingers. The live Archers reunions began a little more than a decade later, but talk of something more always seemed like a non-starter. The angry young men were husbands, fathers, and even lawyers now, pals getting together to cosplay their past at the occasional festival without pretending they were really the same people. Whenever interviewers optimistically asked Bachmann about another Archers album, he demurred: Why pose about old problems with new songs?

Reason in Decline doesn’t pose. Instead, these 10 tightly coiled songs rightfully treat those former concerns—bitter character studies of lovers and townies, jilted analyses of the overcrowded underground—like Clinton-era trifles, conflicts of no consequence in a time of autocrats and prospective apocalypse. Bachmann, now 52, funnels his vintage bile into new ducts here. “In the Surface Noise,” for instance, is a righteous elder’s anthem for the inspirational kids demanding systemic change. “Coming up from under/Myth, deception, subterfuge,” he barks, offering both a nod of approval and a wish that his own generation had gotten more things right. He turns backward and inward for “Mama Was a War Profiteer,” a beautiful tune where romantic sounds smartly cloak disdain for those apathetic souls who vacation their way through someone else’s injustice.

It’s not all disgust for Bachmann, who has often turned to sweetness on recent solo records. “Aimee” is a gentle hymn for a friend unsure of anything, while “The Moment You End” reckons with age and the crippling notion that our best times and selves are always in the rearview. Such solidarity is a welcome addition to the Archers’ emotional reach, epitomized by Reason in Decline’s opener and masterpiece, “Human.” Though the song is a chugging jeremiad against some bitter and cruel enemy, Bachmann pulls back in the chorus to recognize his—and your and our—own failures. “It’s hard to be human,” he sings over epiphanic guitars and stomps, a hard-won soulfulness to his tone. “Only death can set you free.”

Longtime fans may balk at how clean this record sounds, how guitars that once seemed to shed sparks as they ground against one another now lock into recognizable harmonies. But see how half of the band hangs back for the first two verses and chorus of “Human,” and the power that drummer Mark Price and bassist Matt Gentling deliver upon delayed arrival. Or spot the way that Eric Johnson’s sunny little riff in “Breaking Even” turns into a feint, catching on a note here and howling there, illustrating Bachmann’s lyrical cycle of hiccupping paranoia. The textural depth of “In the Surface Noise,” the tessellated stomp of “Misinformation Age,” the crisscrossing instrumental-and-vocal urgency of “Saturation and Light”: For act two, Archers of Loaf have simply found more finessed ways to be playful and pissed at once, their defining paradox forever. Where they used to sound like smart kids made wonderfully dumb with disappointment, here they sound like adults who’ve at last seen therapists and learned to channel their gripes.

It is fitting, funny, and maybe a tad sad that Archers’ triumphant return to record comes alongside another round of reunion-and-reissue coronations for Pavement, the cross-country counterparts to which they were exhaustingly compared in the ’90s. Their distinct approaches are telling. Where Pavement seem content to relive old glories every decade or so, Archers made a record that actually fits their setting in the present—mad dads and pals getting together to gripe, playing sharper than ever. Story checks: If Pavement were the wiseasses that lobbed witticisms from the wings of the party, Archers of Loaf were the Tar Heel blue-collar dudes who’d get loaded enough by night’s end to get in your face and tell you the truth. With a little more softness and a lot less concern for the scene than the world, that’s exactly what they do again—having finally reunited in their own defiant image—on Reason in Decline.
Share on Google Plus

About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Archers of Loaf - Reason in Decline Music Album Reviews Archers of Loaf - Reason in Decline Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on November 08, 2022 Rating: 5


Post a Comment