The year 1993 was a goldmine of rock music, particularly in mainstream rock, with influential albums by Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and Pearl Jam topping the list. But also around that time in the underground scene, there were a number of bands making or touring behind records that would prove to have a lasting mark in the indie rock world and beyond, including (and certainly not limited to) Pavement, Red House Painters, Guided By Voices, Velocity Girl, Sebadoh and any other number of Sub Pop bands. And then there was Chapel Hill, North Carolina's Archers of Loaf.
The Masterpiece That Is Icky Mettle
That year, Archers of Loaf's "Web In Front," the first track from debut album Icky Mettle was not only a short, addictive and multiple repeat-worthy guitar pop ditty, it was a huge hit on college rock radio and one of the top songs of 1993. As for the rest of this band's debut album, it had a number of gems, some heavy ("Slow Worm"), some angry (i.e. "Wrong"), while others were lighter by comparison but catchy ("Plumbline"), or driving post-punk rock and roll ("Backwash").
In other words, Icky Mettle became an instant classic, and therefore, this collective consequently built up for itself a big underground following and an undeniable influence on other indie rock bands for years to come, including the likes of Modest Mouse and Hot Rod Circuit, and it became associated with peers like fellow NC group Superchunk.
Thirteen years after breaking up, vocalist/guitarist Eric Bachmann (also of Crooked Fingers) has gotten his quartet back together and touring this summer. To accompany the reunion, Merge Records (which was co-founded by Superchunk frontman Mac McCaughan) has decided to give the landmark album new life and reissue it as a remastered two-CD set that totals a whopping 27 tracks. (The band's other three studio albums will also be remastered and reissued next year.)
All these years later, this album still sounds as raw and lively as ever. The feedback that opens post-punk rocker "Last Word" still howls, the vocals are still slightly lower in volume in comparison to the ferocious punk rock guitars that assault your ears on "Sick File," and tunes like the aforementioned "Backwash" still just plain rawk.
The Big Bonus Disc
Even if it is somewhat less consistent and even more loose (musically) than the original record, the bonus (second) disc contains 14 enlightening tracks of b-sides associated with this era of the band. It includes AofL's first ever (1992) single, the 7-inch version of "Wrong," which in this reviewer's opinion is better than the album version, in terms of vocal performance and the overall mix.