Archers of Loaf attempt to find their roots

By The Columbia Chronicle

Michael O’Brien

Staff Writer

Remember Jerome Walton? The thin young center fielder won the rookie of the year award in 1989 and helped the Cubs win the Eastern Division title. He could run, hit and field. Walton seemed destined to be a star for years to come — he shined that season.1989 never happened again for Jerome Walton. The Archers of Loaf are independent rock’s Jerome Walton.

The Archers 1992 debut album, “Icky Mettle” wowed critics and fans with its furious, expressive sound. Lead singer Eric Bachmann’s unique vocal sound (think PJ Harvey if she was a guy on a bad acid trip) sounded perfect cascading over a bed of wickedly aggressive guitar. The songs were well crafted and listener-friendly.

That was as good as it would get for the Archers of Loaf. After “Ickey Mettle” they released a number of terribly titled albums with average results. The Archers never made it as big as they should have, but last Saturday night at Metro it was evident that their fans don’t really care.

The band started the set off with “Dead Red Eyes,” a track from their newest album. After that, it was all old school. The sellout crowd was treated to a greatest-hits show, something rarely found in independent rock circles. This is rumored to be the Archers’ last tour. The band played all their biggest hits and even took some requests as a way to say goodbye to their dedicated fans.

The Archers of Loaf don’t rely on melody or love-song choruses. They are all about fury and intensity–two lead guitars that explode together and then spend the rest of the song smashing violently against each other. At first it’s a stunning effect, but as the show wears on the songs begin to run together into one noisy wall of guitar.

Bachmann’s voice gave out halfway through the show, leaving him jumping around even more and doing his best Tom Waits impersonation.

Built To Spill, another band with lofty status in the independent rock world, was one of the opening bands. Lead singer Doug Martsch was the polar opposite of the Archer’s Eric Bachmann. Martsch uses his high, whiny voice to spill out spicy, quirky tales of failure and lost love. While the Archers of Loaf depend on a sonic assault to power their songs, Built To Spill uses melody, style and catchy guitar riffs. The entire sell-out crowd was on-hand for Built To Spill’s set, no small feat at Metro. In fact, a good part of the crowd left after Built To Spill’s set, leaving only the hardcore Archers of Loaf fans.

Unfortunately, the best band of the night, Seattle’s 764-HERO, played to a terribly small group of early arrivers. Archers of Loaf and Built To Spill are pillars of 90s indie-rock, but 764-HERO is the future. 764-HERO performed as a two-piece for the past few years, but bass player James Bertram recently joined the band, perfecting their sound. Bertram is a veteran of indie-rock bands Lync and Red Stars Theory. 764-HERO played a melodic set of songs, highlighted with shimmering guitar and lead singer John Atkins’ incredibly catchy vocal styling.

The band ended their set with “Check the Address,” a song from their debut EP, “We’re Solids.” By this time the crowd had swelled a little, and the newcomers realized they had missed something special.