Review Summary: Personal, engaging, Alien Ant Farm craft their most immature and yet most imaginative work in a complex album with diversity progressing far further then "Smooth Criminal" might have you believe.
Artist: Alien Ant Farm
Release Date: March 6, 2001
Around the world, people hold horrible misconceptions of Alien Ant Farm. When your only major success was a poppy Micheal Jackson cover with a forgettable "party muck-about" feeling video, it's easy to see why people perceive AAF as one hit wonder, unimaginative party-pop group. But they're not. Anthology, as AAF's debut, marked a significant musical contribution far apart from the throw away Smooth Criminal single, with sterling musicianship and creative, meaningful songs.
Anthology is a very personal, individual album owing a lot of its uniqueness to Dryden Mitchell, who carves a rememberable niche as a good vocalist with surreal lyrics and peculiar pronunciation. Throughout the album, we see Mitchell effortlessly shift through vocal medium, from the raspy, short breath bursts in "Wish" to the eerie, spaced out half whispers of the hidden track after "Universe" but he usually chooses to flex his more anthemic muscle and surprise everyone by being a legitimately good singer. Mitchell also separates himself from others by talking about regular everyday issues, relationship problems etc. and carrying them off with abstract metaphors and generally thought out and analytical lyrics. If you're looking for political motivation or anything beyond a personal level, you're screwed, but that's clearly not what this album's about.
In terms of instrumentals, the stand out of the band is undoubtedly Tyre Zamora as bassist. Anywhere in any song, you'll find Zamora working his six string bass (and sometimes upright acoustic) to its fullest, with off key tempo changes that flit between being completely separate to the rest of the song (yet still blending well and not over excelling) and simply merging with guitar and drums to give the aspired effect, which makes it in my mind a shame that AAF chose to down-tune the bass. It's still definately audible, but it can get occasionally lost in the guitar, which is a shame considering the pure quality and proficency Zamora is so consistently performing. This isn't to understate Terry Corso as guitarist however, considering his often ambiatic and climactic overlays and what I find to be successful expansion, such as the driving, fast paced riff in "Attitude". Mike Corso's drum pieces have never inspired enough interest in me to note their effect, though he's certainly solid, providing the backbone for the other three more extrovert musicians to work off.
ANThology as a whole shows to be a complex and diverse album, ranging from such soft, melodic pieces as "Sticks and Stones" and "Death Day" to the outright intense rock in "Courage", you'll find this album caters to most crowds in some way, if only for sparse portions. The only really discernable theme is AAF's standard "big build-up to rock out at chorus", which I can't gripe at, considering it's just a debut album playing to the band's known strength and AAF's further releases show them progressing past this. Really, this album will never win awards as the best at anything, time has shown it fade into obscurity and out of people's minds, superceded by better or more popular options, but it's still a personally engaging and unique album, with historiography hopefully eliciting it more recognition.