Graham Reid | | 1 min read
British pop has certainly had the eccentric end of the market fairly well wrapped up by bands like Half Man Half Biscuit, The Bonzo Dog Do-Dah Band and the Soft Boys, or people like Jona Lewie and so on.
Stateside, eccentricity seems to come in smaller packages (solo acts like Jonathan Richman, damaged souls like Roky Erickson and Daniel Johnston) but it appears to be less difficult finding like-minded characters in Britain where eccentricity is endemic and part of the national character.
However Archers of Loaf from North Carolina managed a rare US blend the slightly oddball and wilfuly eccentric with post-punk/grunge-edged indie rock. They experimented with strange sounds and discordant guitars, minimalist rock (like the Feelies in places) or roared like a garageband whose parents wanted the room back for storage.
They often weren't the easiest of propositions but their '96 album All the Nations Airports (their third, but first distributed by a major label) found them on a more sure rock path and although it included songs like Assassination on X-Mas Eve (about exactly what it says), the nautical piano ballad Chumming the Ocean and the stridently post-punk and very British-sounding Vocal Shrapnel one after another at the midpoint, they largely kept this one fairly focused. And often turned the mood down.
It was the album that could have seen them cross over (college radio were already playing them) but it didn't really happen and they only had another studio album in them until they broke up two years later.
They recently reformed when their albums were given expanded reissue and people had a chance to hear again what they had been up to.
Airports, although rarely essential listening, is the best place to tune in -- earlier albums are a bit slapdash, the final one White Trash Heroes sounds like a band on its last legs -- and with a bonus disc of singles and demos of the album tracks it's a good chance to catch up belately and wonder aloud . . . why not Archers of Loaf?