Archers of Loaf and the remastering of your generation

Posted by Jason Diamond

The amount of albums from my formative years that have jumped back onto my most listened-to playlists is pretty staggering.  I had made a promise to myself to ignore all the 90s are back hoopla – dismissing it as retro garbage talk.  Like the rehashing of 80s new wave in the early part of the new millennium, people seem inclined to play off the nostalgia of the generation that is getting up there in years as well as financial status.  I’m guessing this is why generations make comebacks.

Generation X has grown up.  They have jobs.  If they wear their “Loser” t-shirts, they do it while they’re working out to lower their cholesterol.  They have bad barbed wire tattoos, but you don’t see them since they’re wearing long sleeve shirts to their job at some office; and they probably embraced what you chuckle and call “dad rock” back when it was called “alt-country.” This, it would seem, is the natural progression of things that you should just accept.  One day you will be old as well.  In your future, I see you buying overpriced tickets to the Legends of Market Hotel tour, where you will drink light beer, and shout out at High Places to play that song you really loved.

I’m in that weird grey area where I sorta fit into Generation X, but made it in by about one year.  I experienced the seminal experiences of the times by watching MTV.  I associate seeing Pavement for the first time with not caring, because I was waiting to see Jenny McCarthy on Singled Out; and missing Kurt Loder report the news that Kurt Cobain had killed himself because my mom shut off the television and told me to go do my math homework.  And besides some of the obvious culprits (Pussy Whipped, Dirty, It’s a Shame About Ray), the benchmark albums of the decade escaped me until long after their release.  Icky Mettle by Archers of Loaf was one of those records.  It sits next to Loveless, Bee Thousand, and Exile in Guyville as 90s albums that had to be introduced to me by way of a friend’s older brother.  Eric Bachman’s raspy voice is the sound of pre-internet days, when I couldn’t just look up a band I was curious about.   Icky Mettle also holds the distinct honor of being the first album I ever smoked pot to.  For that, it will always hold a strange place in my heart next to Shellac’s At Action Park – which was the album I lost my virginity to.  (It’s probably not as weird as it sounds.  I grew up outside of Chicago.  I’m sure dozens of people lost their V-card to something Albini related.)

Icky Mettle is also the album where my familiarity with Archers of Loaf begins and ends.  Whether it is due to the fact that it’s such a fantastic album that I know none of their other work could top it, or because I was too lazy to listen to anything else of theirs, I am not totally sure.  But the fact remains that it is one of the ultimate records of its time, and the recently remastered and reissued version of it to come out on Merge is one of the bright spots of the year.

So until the next wave of previous generation nostalgia washes over the world, Archers of Loaf might finally soak up the acclaim they deserve.  At the very least, they might finally be able to get away from the poor man’s Pavement tag they’d been branded with in the past.  Included in the package is the Archers of Loaf vs. The Greatest of All Time, plus a few other singles you were too jaded to pick up.

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