Reason in Decline

Oct 21, 2022

By Michael James Hall


After 24 years away, Chapel Hill’s Archers of Loaf return with their fifth album, the follow up to 1998’s White Trash Heroes.

If you arrive at Reason in Decline expecting a continuation of the loose-limbed, wild-eyed, and reckless Loaf of old, you will be surprised at what you find. Their appeal back then lay partly in their delectably haphazard nature, Eric Bachmann’s screamed melodies and vicious lyrics striving to surface through crashing waves of Eric Johnson’s guitar.

Here, though, slacker cynicism has turned to focused stoicism; fast and loose now measured and taut. There’s no pretence of recapturing the shabby, shimmering thrills of the past—this is absolutely, definitively not a nostalgia record—instead offering a modern, masterful document of the personal and political, turning its dark, hard themes fearlessly into phenomenal rock songs.

“A flash in the dark/A knock on the table/Beautiful dreamer/Pitiful failure,” sings Bachmann on the beguiling, spectacular “Saturation and Light,” while on the throbbing “Screaming Undercover” he notes, “Everybody’s dreaming but the dream is a lie.” As earnest and honest now as they were cynical and cryptic then, these songs aren’t calls to arms, but unerring observations of how we try to remain human in the face of the horrors of the modern world. As Bachmann brilliantly puts it on the enthralling “Mama Was a War Profiteer”—“We kissed as everything burned to the ground.”

There’s hope here among the wreckage, as on the epic “In the Surface Noise,” where we find “Teenage infidels/Forming rebel cells,” but conversely, on the plaintive “Aimee,” the acceptance that “I don’t mind if we can’t find our way home.”

It’s a tough, heartfelt record that marries hard-edged, emotionally complex lyrics to skyscraping sounds and delivers a thrilling, vital whole. These feel like the perfect anthems for our times, the past be damned. (http://www.archersofloaf.net)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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