ERIC BACHMANN isn't a kid anymore. And that's sort of the point. Even when his flailing limbs and lanky frame were the focal point of the preeminent indie rock band of the 1990s, Archers of Loaf, the stark realities of decay were looming. With an eroding hairline, emotionally blunt lyrical themes, and a vocal croak that might make Tom Waits envious, Bachmann was never a young man, even when he was a young man. That might explain why he segued so naturally into his role as a tipsy, downtrodden crooner in Crooked Fingers, and more importantly, why Archers of Loaf decided to reunite right this very moment.
"It's definitely music made for young people by young people. God bless it, but it's very physical. That's why we're doing it now, 'cause it's not like I can do this when I'm 50," admits Bachmann. "I just read a review of our show up at [Carrboro, North Carolina venue] Cat's Cradle and the guy was like, 'Bachmann was more sedentary than he was when he was 22 years old.' Well what the fuck did you think I would be? I'm a 41-year-old man."
Back when their taut limbs were spry and youthful, Archers of Loaf were active for a brief six years, a period that brought about four LPs and a handful of singles and EPs (including what is possibly the best EP of the decade, 1994's veracious Vs. the Greatest of All Time). When Archers of Loaf unraveled in '98, it was on the heels of their least impressive recording to date, White Trash Heroes, and the band was hamstrung by a poor record deal with Alias Records (the SST of the '90s—this is not a compliment). The band that entered with a bang exited with a whimper.
From there Bachmann formed the ever-evolving Crooked Fingers, yet he was never quite able to walk away from his past, probably because devoted fans wouldn't let him, and wherever he went, questions about an Archers of Loaf reunion closely followed. "I think it did bother me right after the fact, like in '99, '00, '01," he explains. "But I thought the band would be forgotten about... I'm quite honored and surprised that people still remembered us at all, and that there was a demand for this."
The demand stems from the recently repackaged and remastered double-disc version of Icky Mettle, the band's '93 debut and finest recording. This intricate reissue is even more appealing when you consider that Icky Mettle was hastily recorded in a venue's closet in the waning hours of the morning.
"Our housemate, Caleb Southern, had his studio set up in a closet in the Cat's Cradle and when the shows would end around 1:30 am, the bands would load out and everything, and we bring our stuff in and record around 3:30 am," says Bachmann. "We were taking it seriously, but also we didn't know it would be reissued in 20 years."
Yet nearly two decades later, Icky Mettle has become the very foundation for domestic guitar-driven indie rock—right alongside In the Aeroplane over the Sea and Slanted and Enchanted. It masterfully captured the vague disillusionment of an entire shiftless generation, balanced with a quiet/loud aesthetic on par with the Pixies, and it was a stunning revelation for a band that was often seen as little more than a bunch of limp-shouldered slackers. How wrong we were.
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