Alien Ant Farm - ANThology
Okay, I think we’ve all had enough now. When nu-metal finally puts out this kind of cack, we really have to bury our heads in the sand and hope that, if we ignore it, then it will eventually just go away. Alien Ant Farm, signed by Papa Roach to Papa Roach’s label (and I’m not even gonna start on that point…) have brought out a debut that finally takes the piss completely - the entire genre has disappeared up its own arsehole with the release of this album. Nu-metal is young, but Alien Ant Farm (or their record company) are just about intelligent enough to realise that they will stand more chance of success if they cover all the necessary bases in this already formulaic and dilapidated genre. And so this is exactly what they have done.
There is typical hard-angst in opener ‘Courage’, there’s the cheese-punk of current single ‘Movies’ (which unwittingly holds the whole genre of Green Day envisaged mindless punk up to ridicule), there’s the Pearl Jam rip-off in ‘Whisper’. There’s the ska-punk influence on ‘Flesh and Bone’ and then there’s the insipidly unintelligent ‘reworking’ of Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’, although all they have managed to do is play it identically faithful to the original but with distortion pedals at ten - who was it who once said there was no point to covers if they did not bring something new to the song? Evidently someone with musical creativity.
However, when things calm down a little they do seem to get slightly more inventive, with the rolling drums and mesmerising guitars of ‘Attitude’ it is unsurprising that this is the least nu-metal song, and also the best song on the album. On the harder songs, there is no real attitude, just loud guitars for loud guitars sake - which smacks of art for art’s sake, rather than for any form of expression - if AAF knew their music history they would know that loud guitars have always been used to portray anger, alienation, pain or some other strong negative emotion. Here, there is no pure punk anger of the likes of Amen (I doubt if Alien Ant Farm ever get genuinely angry about anything apart from reviews like this), there is not the intelligence of At The Drive-In, there is not even the tune-smithery of Linkin Park or AAF’s spiritual fathers Papa Roach. But of course, they have the money and the propaganda (sorry, merchandising) power which means they will not need these kind of irrelevancies anyway.
Angst is now sold like pop. There once was a day when the alternative to pop was intelligent, critical and left-wing in its approach and innovative, heartfelt and malevolent in its music. It is of little surprise that we now find rock and nu-metal pushed to us as part of the mainstream, and so by necessity it needs to become anodyne and expressionless for it to be absorbed readily by a mass media. You cannot speak out loud and be successful these days - the only exception, which also proves the rule, is Radiohead, who have also stylistically rejected rock. So, we end up with Californian meatheads that say nothing and give nothing new to music. It is much safer to follow a pre-existing formula, and will more efficiently corner a given market. Reject nu-metal on the basis of exploitation. Reject Alien Ant Farm on the basis of artistic expressionlessness.