Alien Ant Farm: Mean Fiddler

ON TOUR LAST YEAR, Alien Ant Farm were involved in a bus crash in Spain, which left their driver dead and the band traumatised and nursing various injuries. Vocalist Dryden Mitchell suffered a broken neck and spent weeks with a steel support wedged against his head. Apparently they had to take a deep breath and swallow hard before they got back on a plane to Europe for this summer’s festival season, but seeing them bounce around the stage tonight, you’d never have guessed.

The Farmers make unlikely teen idols. Mitchell went through the whole performance wearing a thick pair of glasses with a hat jammed down over his ears. Bassist Tye Zamora resembles a huge Samoan wrestler, but occasionally goes gallumphing around the stage like a manatee out of water. Burly guitarist Terence Corso looks like he just climbed down from the cab of his truck. As for Mike Cosgrove, he . . . plays the drums.

The band have a new album, truANT (following in their not-so-great tradition of comedy names set by its predecessor, ANThology), and naturally were keen to preview chunks of it. “You probably don’t know this next song, but just think of your favourite band and pretend we’re them,” Mitchell suggested. Their material is an unsettling mixture of rapid fire, jagged riffs and fractured time-signatures, into which they manage to squeeze strong tunes and choruses. None of the new ones quite matches the immediacy of older songs such as ‘Attitude’ and its “you are welcome” chorus, but the metallic reggae lurch of ‘Never Meant’ grabs the attention, while ‘Drifting Apart’ switches between a riff that feels like driving over cobblestones in a Mini with clapped-out shock absorbers, and a big, anthemic singalong.

The Farmers have steered clear of the current boom in rock-rap fusions, preferring instead to display an unfashionable level of musical expertise. While Cosgrove hammers out beats, Corso is unerringly fast and accurate around his fretboard. Zamora plays zooming, jazzy chords on his six-string bass and adds cunning falsetto harmonies to Mitchell’s lines. Judging by their incongruous versions of Sade’s ‘Smooth Operator’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’, they could hold down a career as a covers band if they ran out of songwriting inspiration.

© Adam SweetingThe Guardian, 22 August 2003

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