In Defence Of Alien Ant Farm
In Defence of Alien Ant Farm
Alien Ant Farm rose from obscurity with a Smooth Criminal cover in 2001 – Ian Critchley thinks they’re ripe for reassessment.
Remember that band who did that Michael Jackson cover way back when? The one that was seemingly played non-stop until that opening “wow!” made you want to ram a biro into your ear holes until the drum burst and you were free from once again going through the chorus repetition of “Annie, are you okay? Are you okay, Annie?”
That band was Alien Ant Farm, and they are still very much a band. Even if, in terms of air play, the only recognition they get these days is having that same damn cover played in clubs on nostalgia nights they have continued to write, at least in my opinion, consistently great albums that are filled with a great musicality and interesting experimentation. And, if most people could look past that cover, it’d probably be their opinions too.
Alien Ant Farm’s career took off after being “discovered” by Papa Roach frontman Coby Dick/Jacoby Shaddix/Coby Dick/etc. whose recommendation allowed the foursome to land a deal with Universal. My first encounter with the band was with the first releasing of the single Movies, taken from the album ANThology. Apart from its terrible name, ANThology was an incredible album which showcased the bands ability to write deeply emotional material (Flesh And Bone, Summer, Death Day etc) as well as catchy pop tunes like their big screen cinema inspired single.
Then Smooth Criminal was released. Although this catapulted Alien Ant Farm to almost stardom the acclaim was short lived and soon after the second release of Movies, the video to which featured a cameo from the one and only Mr. Miyagi, they slipped off the edge of the world with their third single Attitude, without a doubt one of the best from the album, barely registering on the musical Richter scale.
God knows why they didn’t continue their winning streak. The songs remained as strong as ever and the band never threw in the towel. If anything they upped their game. But within two months after the album TruANT (yet another awful album name) was released Alien Ant Farm were dropped by the label. Even the single These Days, having one of the greatest videos ever with the band crashing the BET music awards by playing from a rooftop across the road blowing the minds of unexpected music A-listers like Nelly, Snoop Dogg, Lil’ Kim, and P Diddy before eventually being arrested by the police, could save them from obscurity.
The album also featured Glow which gained great radio play in New Zealand but very little elsewhere, despite being yet another great pop song, hardly getting the recognition it deserved.
Up In The Attic thankfully strayed away from the ant references and once again contained a plethora of songs that showed the prowess of very talented musicians. There isn’t a single weak link within the band with vocalist Dryden Mitchell’s voice dipping and soaring over incredible instrumentation that switches from aggressive distorted rock to sweet serene acoustic melodies with such aplomb that it is impossible to know which style AAF are most comfortable with. While single Forgive And Forget is a fantastic song to push out into the big wide would (though the music video looks like a B college effort no doubt due to lack of funds) the real treat of the record is laid back rainy summer tune Crickets which truly shows the versatility of both Dryden’s vocals and the band in general, the track seemingly a tip of the cap to the late 60s/early 70s Troubadour Club scene.
Though their music hasn’t lost any of the force that made ANThology a platinum selling record it’s doubtful Alien Ant Farm will ever come close to the mainstream acknowledgement they did during the Smooth Criminal days. Perhaps the music scene has shifted too far, or maybe great bands can only be mass marketed through gimmicky covers. Whatever the reason it’s clear that the music is this bands main concern, not popularity.
With their website promising new music sometime this year in the form of album ‘Always And Forever’, a pledgemusic project to support its release, and a video of the first single from the album, Alien Ant Farm’s legion of loyal fans will no doubt be salivating at the prospect of a new record, even if few others outside of the devoted are.
All words by Ian Critchley. More writing by Ian on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.