Archive Material only cements Silverbacks’ status as one of Ireland’s most fascinating bands. Recorded at Dublin’s Sonic Studios in November 2020, with Daniel Fox undertaking production duties once more, it finds the band leaning into their early influences, delivering idiosyncratic indie-rock packed with intricate, Tom Verlaine-esque “guitarmony”. Other reference points for the record included Neil Young, Weyes Blood and - on ‘Wear My Medals’ in particular - Bradford Cox and Cate Le Bon’s collaborative record Myths 004.
Where Fad found Silverbacks focused on recapturing the live experience rather than reveling in studio experimentation, Archive Material skillfully traverses the line between the two. As a unit, they replicate that irrepressible live energy via complex arrangements incorporating everything from wistful Rhodes (‘Carshade’) to congas and Gang Of Four-style bass (‘Different Kind Of Holiday’).
Thematically, the record is every bit as rich, displaying an anthropological approach as exemplified by the album’s artwork. The initial premise for ‘They Were Never Our People’ came from a YouTube comment, portraying the decline of a town that has lost its footfall as the result of a bypass. Meanwhile, ‘Central Tones’ is an empathetic character study of someone seemingly content to trade off former glories, but secretly deeply unhappy.
On several songs, the pandemic functions as a particularly effective prism through which to examine ideas of community. ‘A Job Worth Something’ finds Daniel reflecting on his real-life experiences working in insurance while his sister treated patients on a COVID ward, and the feelings of futility and guilt he felt at the time. ‘Different Kind Of Holiday’ was inspired by the ways in which previously uncommunicative neighbours bonded with each other during periods of enforced confinement. Throughout, his observations arrived drenched in the same surreal strain of gallow’s humour that many of us were forced to adopt to lighten the toughest moments of the lockdown.
Keenly observed and vividly rendered, Archive Material is an eye-witness account of human resilience as much as it is a compelling indie-rock record. Future historians take note.