Archers of Loaf – All the Nation’s Airports + White Trash Heroes

January 01, 1970

(Merge)

 

www.mergerecords.com

 

 

Originally released in 1996, All the Nation’s Airports, the third record from the much-beloved
Archers of Loaf, found the North
Carolina combo essentially keeping on keepin’ on with
its hooky clangcrunch. That’s not to say the band has run its distinctive
noise-pop groove into the ground, however. With a developing melodic sense
(heightened by Eric Bachmann’s ever-more ragged voice) and tighter
arrangements, the Loaf refines its approach, giving “Vocal Shrapnel,” “Scenic
Pastures” and the title track more accessibility while retaining the signature
dissonance. The presence of the smoky instrumental “Bumpo” and the naked ballad
“Chumming the Ocean” may put off purists, but the aggressive rush of “Bones of
Our Hands” and the spiky riffs of “Form and File” prove the band hasn’t gone
soft. The album-closing piano solo “Bombs Away” is a puzzler, though.

 

As with Merge’s prior Archers reissues, the new edition of Airports comes with a second disk
compiling various singles and demos from the period. The single “Density” rocks
like an Archer should, and the B-side “Little Jets” exposes the soft chewy
center at the core of the band’s bile-bombs. Bachmann’s four-track demos suffer
from thin, clattery sound, but reveal the record’s vision already intact, with
a few unreleased cuts (the excellent “Trilogy,” the ridiculous “Total Failure”)
as well.  

 

1998’s unfocused White
Trash Heroes
is the final Loaf studio LP. It’s apparent the band was
getting restless, as it tinkers with its by-then established sound in a number
of ways. The synth solos in the otherwise rocking “Fashion Bleeds” and “One
Slight Wrong Move” (which also boasts a vocoder) sound lifted from an 80s
neoprog act, while the thrumming groove of the instrumental “Smokers in Love”
shows at least an awareness of (if not exactly an affinity for) funk. The
repetitive, distorted “I.N.S.” filters the group’s Fugazi influences through an
industrial gauze, while the slide guitar-laced “Slick Tricks and Bright Lights”
presents a warped take on the alternative country that was feeling its oats at
the time. The title track soaks itself in electronic pop sounds, sort of a
pre-cursor to Bachmann’s proclivities with Crooked Lines. The band keeps melody
at the forefront, and includes plenty of its patented dissonant pop songs, but
the tension in its eclecticism makes clear the band was near the end.  

 

The rarities disk begins with the single “Jive Kata,” which
dives deep into a pool of straight-up synth pop, and ends with a handful of
unreleased sketches. The rest of the record consists of the four-track demos
for Heroes and, as with the demos for
All the Nation’s Airports, show that
the band knew exactly what it was after when it hit a “real” studio.

 

 

DOWNLOAD: “Bones
of Our Hands,” “Vocal Shrapnel,” “Little Jets,” “Dead Red Eyes,” “Smokers in
Love,” “Fashion Bleeds (4-track demo)” MICHAEL TOLAND

 

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