Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Archers Of Loaf - Vee Vee Reissue

Here at HAD, we are of two minds when it comes to the imminent "two disc" reissues of classic records.  With bands we obsessed over before the reissues, they can be a bit of a let down:  sometimes they don't include one or two key tracks, sometimes the ordering is less than ideal, and (let's be honest) it just hurts to see the tracks you paid hundreds of dollars to obtain as import B-Sides on one convenient $15 bonus disc.  However, with bands for whom we had never invested that level of time and money the two disc reissue is a treasure trove of affordably-priced awesomeness.  Case in point: Merge Records' latest Archers of Loaf Reissue, Vee Vee.

With their first Archers two disc reissue, Icky Mettle, Merge something of an easy time of it.  The bonus disc consisted of the band's classic The Greatest Of All Time, and a bunch of hard-to-find 7" versions of album cuts.  In short, exactly what you'd expect. Which, while complete, held relatively few surprises. By stark contrast, the reissue of Vee Vee is chock full of new and unreleased material.  The easy stuff is tossed aside in the first few minutes, with single b-sides and alternate mixes filling the first five tracks. However, what follows is the true reward: in addition to a number of rarities from compilations, and an previously unreleased track, "Equinox", the second disc fills out with seven tracks from not one, but two separate demo tapes.

The demo tracks are really the highlight of the bonus disc:  they illustrate not only the depth of these songs and musicians, but also the many sides of Eric Bachmann that had yet to be revealed, and would later surface in Crooked Fingers. The "Marathon Boombox" tracks feature Bachmann on a twangy guitar poking through what are barely fragments of songs.  By contrast, the "Vee Vee 4-track Demo" tracks that follow employ a drum machine and multiple guitar lines and give a much better sense of what Bachmann would wind up as when he went solo.  In both cases, the demos are enough to stand up on their own, and become classics unto themselves.

And then, of course, there's the record itself.  For Archers fans, Vee Vee needs no introduction, and for many it marks the advent of the band becoming something more dynamic than simply another alternative rock band.  It has never occupied our "favorite record" slot for the band, not for lack of awesomeness, but simply because the rest of their output is so great. That being said, the new remaster is fantastic, and it's the best we've ever heard this record sound.  It is crisp, clean, and manages to somehow toe the line between a clean "studio" mix, and feeling like you're in the room with a band.  Good production at its finest.

In short, the Vee Vee remaster is everything we could ask for, and is well worth your while. Not only that, but it's gotten us extremely excited for the additional reissues that Merge has promised in the coming year. During their heyday, the Archers never really got what one would call wide-spread recognition (we recall seeing them at the Grog Shop in Cleveland in 1999 with something like 20 other people), but that seems to be turning around.  With a reunion tour, and these fantastic reissues, the band is finally getting their due, and it's a good thing, because it's most certainly well-deserved.