Archers of Loaf – Seconds Before the Accident

Archers of Loaf
Seconds Before the Accident

The first time I saw the Archers of Loaf, it was actually at a mainstream music festival in Washington, D.C. I had been familiar with their songs for a while, but I didn’t even actually own an Archers album. I just knew that they had to play “Web in Front” or I would be very disappointed. Well, they played the second stage and blew their only main amp three songs into the set, but I got to hear “Web in Front,” and I was so hooked on this band that didn’t look like rock stars but played some of the coolest, noisiest rock I’ve heard.

Since then, I managed to catch about five more Archers shows, pretty much every time they came from Chapel Hill, N.C. through Washington. Their shows ended up falling into two categories: loud and noisy rock and slow and mellow ballads. They didn’t seem to mix the two. I brought my friend who was very into punk rock to see the Archers once, claiming that they’re post-punk in energy and noise, and they played their slow, mellow set. I brought another friend who doesn’t like the painfully noisy stuff, and the band played all their rockers. I was satisfied either way, but I really wanted them to mix the two sets into one perfect set.

The last time I saw the Archers, they were supporting their last album, White Trash Heroes. It was their last album and their last tour, and they played the perfect set. The slower, more melodic and intrinsically complex songs from their new album such as “Dead Read Eyes” and “White Trash Heroes” mixed nicely with slower, more moodier songs like “Chumming the Oceans” and “Plumbline.” They didn’t play too many of their older songs, though, a fact that disappointed me. But now I have their live album, recorded during that tour, and it comes close to being the perfect Archers greatest hits album.
The songs mentioned above are here, but so are the older ones. “Web in Front,” of course, makes an appearance, as do some of the band’s harder noise-rock songs, such as “Fabricoh,” “Might,” and “Revenge.” They even throw in some older tracks, choosing two of my favorites: “South Carolina” and “Wrong,” both of which highlight the Archers in their best years, when they were playing loud and fast and energetic.

It’s not the perfect song choice, I suppose. I could have done without “Fashion Bleeds” and “You and Me” to hear the band play “Harnessed in Slums” and the one song that I think I heard in every concert (barring that first, early show): “Greatest of All Time.” In fact, there’s very little between their older, Icky Mettle and previous days and their later music. “Revenge” from Vs. the Greatest of All Time shows up, and Vee Vee is represented by “Fabricoh.” The best songs off All the Nation’s Airports are here, however, and it’s nice to see so many older songs show up. I always thought that Speed of Cattle, an album of B-sides and rarities, was the band’s best mix anyway, and it’s nice to hear them playing some of those songs live and preserved here forever.

The promo flier from that major music festival in Washington made careful mention of Matt Gentling’s on-stage antics. The flier compared him to the bass-wielding wildman who fronted Primus. As if in spite, Gentling was completely stoic in that show, but that didn’t last in his future performances. With long, bow-cut hair flopping as he head-banged to almost passing out on every song, Gentling would also supply most of the between-song banter, and some of that is caught on this release. “If I have an embolism tonight, it’s out of gratitude,” he assures the crowd, which, at times, can be heard singing along to the lyrics as any good Archers fan would do. And Eric Bachman’s voice, gravelly and hoarse on most of the songs, holds up well in the live recording.

I’m sure there are very many Archers of Loaf fans out there in the world, but, oddly enough, I never met any. Sure, I managed to get a few friends to like the band, and I met some cool people at shows, but when talking about musical tastes, no one else seems to know of or appreciate the quirks, the noise, the energy of Archers of Loaf. That lead me to believe that I would marry the girl who loved them as much as me, a prospect that is steadily more unlikely now that the band has broken up. But that’s ok, because sometimes it’s better to keep such enjoyment to yourself. The band is no more, but we have some great albums with highs and lows to remember them by, and now we have this live album – all highs here – to keep those energetic live shows, an integral part to the Archers experience, alive as well.