When Alien Ant Farm broke big in 2001 it was with a track that was everything a cover version should be: surprising, innovative, retaining the spirit of the original while infusing it with a fresh, genre-skipping air.
In retrospect, their reinterpretation of Michael Jackson‘s Smooth Criminal was not a freakish, flash in the pan. Debut album ANThology was full of similar ANThems (sorry), where friendly pop tunes were underpinned by modern metal guitar riffage.
New album truANT (they really should stop that, you know) also has it’s fair share of pop-metal moments. Tracks like A Thousand Days, Drifting Apart and Rubber Mallet adeptly tread the tried and tested path of big guitars, big drums and even bigger choruses, to sound effect. Dryden Mitchell is also developing a serious Mike Patton twang to his vocals, and Faith No More fans may even notice a “borrowing” of a line from Falling To Pieces in Rubber Mallet.
However, there’s a lot more to truANT than variations on album number one’s theme. These Days is steeped in ’80s hair-rock, and it’s “ah-ahs” and wonderfully cheesy riffs would make current media darlings The Darkness wet their sequined jump-suits in appreciation.
Moreover, there are a number of tracks that aren’t rock at all. Glow starts with a playful, acoustic strum before developing into a faux-skiffle number, complete with handclaps and the actually funny line: “And even Edison has no idea of all the blackouts I’ve caused you and me.”
Meanwhile, Never Meant comes over all reggae with its Police-y vibe and synthesised steel drums; Tia Lupe is a Latino sway that could give rise to samba in the moshpit; and Hope is an open-hearted, bleeding ballad (for want of a better word), with background strings and Mitchell bemoaning the fact that “someone I thought was a friend to me has gone and married my wife.”
So what is one to make of Alien Ant Farm’s playing truANT from the schoolyard of rock? Well, it doesn’t always work and sometimes they run the real danger of playing songs that are too off-kilter for the majority of their fans to know what to do with. However, they definitely have the tunes while their versatility can only be applauded, particularly as it is a quality lacking in many of their peers.
truANT may not sell three million copies plus like its predecessor, but there’s still plenty of life left on the Alien Ant Farm yet…