Review Summary: “Up in the Attic” is arguably the best album of the band’s notable career.
Attics usually produce thoughts of dust, junk, and objects that largely served their place in the past. After an extended time without touring or updating fans, Alien Ant Farm has given “Up in the Attic” to masses. Would the album be host to rich songwriting and valuable content or would the material retire to the annals of history dismissed as outdated and left to collect dust?
Before an analysis of the album takes place, a brief refreshing of the group’s history will prove to be a necessary task.
One of the most popular bands of the early 21st Century, Alien Ant Farm (AAF) skyrocketed to success by riding the popularity and acclaim that came with their debut album, “ANThology” and the band’s breakout cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.” Packaged with two other fairly successful singles in “Movies” and “Attitude,” AAF was a group destined for musical stardom. Unfortunately, during the recording of their second official album, “TruANT,” AAF were involved in a fatal bus wreck in Spain, causing the band to reflect on their past success. With the release of “TruANT,” the band produced a more matured and serious effort. The album was deemed somewhat of a success after singles “These Days” and “Glow” received moderate airtime.
This led to the “3rd Draft” days. During this time, the band waved goodbye to guitarist Terry Corso and bassist Tye Zamora and replaced them with Joe Hill and Alex Barreto, respectively. These two, along with vocalist Dryden Mitchell and drummer Mike Cosgrove, would come to form the entity responsible for the music found on “3rd Draft.” However, due to pitiful major label support, “3rd Draft” was placed on the backburner until given a proper release one year later under the title of “Up in the Attic.”
The band wastes no time out of the gates with an alarm clock awaking the listener on “Band Morning.” From there, Hill and company shed all fears that the band would soften their sound by attacking the listener with hard-charging guitars and relentless drumming. After traditionally opening the album with an aggressive song, AAF then offers the listener the first single, “Forgive & Forget.” Reminiscent of “Movies,” the song features an inspired performance by Mitchell with typical failed romance lyrics the vocalist is known for:
“So here's a few things that I went through:
Romantic movies, and money, and jewelry,
Vacations and flowers on special occasions
Purses and lockets paid out of my pocket
Diamonds and dresses, F*ck, you're expensive!”
The band continues their assault with “What I Feel is Mine” and “It Could Happen,” both songs featuring engaging guitars and lively vocals. “Around the Block,” the album’s second and practically unnoticed single, ends the aggressive first third of the album with a ridiculously catchy chorus and another solid performance by Mitchell.
The second third of the album features a quieter affair, with “Lord Knows,” “Crickets,” and “Supreme Lifestyle” offering reduced tempos, traces of acoustic guitars and some of the most memorable choruses the band has ever recorded to tape. Along with this, the band also uses this time to showcase different arrangements. “Lord Knows” features a brass section, while “Supreme Lifestyle” boasts a sweeping string section.
The final third of the album includes some of the band’s best material to date. Beginning with two upbeat numbers, “Consti2tion” ebbs and flows with its noticeable Reggae flavor, while “State of Emergency” marches along with tongue and cheek lyrics and a lively bass line.
The final two pieces conclude the album with a subdued, yet powerful atmosphere. “Sleepwalker,” featuring lyrics that long for a lover’s ghost, is arguably one of AAF’s most powerful songs with Mitchell’s incredible singing soaring over a desperate melody supplemented with chilling strings. Last but not least, the album ends with “She’s Only Evil,” a haunting song featuring an intense chorus and a rather dark atmosphere while maintaining a sense of beauty that only AAF is known for.
For most Alien Ant Farm fans, few were willing to venture into the Attic, leaving the band on a path to inevitable obscurity. However, the ones who remained loyal to the band were able to discover a multitude of treasures, while realizing that “Up in the Attic” is arguably the best album of the band’s notable career.