Rather than burying their heads in the sand and imagining life beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, Dublin quintet Silverbacks have embraced the moment and written a contemporary reflection on one of the weirdest periods of history — that isn’t even really complete history yet. For anyone wary of listening to art that reflects the current time, they needn’t hesitate. Silverbacks have explored the anxieties and the banalities of the past two years with ambiguous flair on Archive Material, putting their trademark sardonic, antagonistic and amusing spin on events.
The follow up to their debut album Fad (2020), Archive Material was written in the early months of 2020 when the band were unable to fully tour their latest release. With Gilla Band bassist Daniel Fox back on production duties, the record is a collection of cleanly produced songs that tap into the raw nerves of existing in such an unusual time, peppered with humorous, macabre observations like “I saw death in a necktie” on the eponymous opening track, or lines like “The decline of western civilization / I read it on the back of a t-shirt” on the deeply sarcastic “Econymo”. It’s a similar cacophony of eclectic guitar sounds, swaggering beats and wry lyrics.
Whether they’re “Waking up with no purpose / Just to go to sleep” on “A Job Worth Something” or rifling through a “Karl Marx selection box” on “Rolodex City”, Daniel O'Kelly, Kilian O'Kelly, Emma Hanlon, Peadar Kearney and Gary Wickham do so with a knowing side-eye fixed firmly on their listeners. Their record smacks with self awareness, from the playful shrug of “But what's our image, anymore” on “They Were Never Our People”, To Hanlon taking the vocal lead on the racing “Wear My Medals” and the enjoyably tame “I’m Wild”, to the candid “I’m a front row citizen babe” on “Nothing To Write Home About” — their observations seem rooted in a desire to mock issues that currently feel too heavy to explore in any realistic or painful way.
This outlook shouldn’t be mistaken for apathy though. Their remarks on “Recycle Culture” feel pretty spot on, and simple lines like “Getting high on the archive / What a time to be alive” hit home harder than usual when the past is easier to relate to than the future in the current world. With shades of their influences Neil Young, Weyes Blood, and Sonic Youth — as well as the attitude of contemporary New York art-punks Bodega - Silverbacks’ Archive Material is a record that makes the best of a truly bizarre, banal, and jarring time.