Alien Ant Farm : London WC2 Mean Fiddler

Even though they find themselves in the right time and the right place, Alien Ant Farm can't help saying the wrong thing...

‘Thanks for digging the ballads, you guys!’ says Alien Ant Farm‘s singer Dryden Mitchell with all the perky wholesomeness you’d associate with the frontman of a High School Christian rock band. ‘Y’know, I think we’re getting mellower as we get older. Are you all okay with that? ’ Well, no. Of course not.

This latest Nu-metal hatching was incubated in the record imprint New Noize, the nest of their “insect brothers” Papa Roach, and their natural audience expect nothing less than aorta-punishing angst. Mellow really doesn’t come into it. Dryden blunders on, regardless. ‘I don’t like metal too much at the moment. What have they done to it? They’ve ruined my metal. ’ There’s a shuffling silence. This is heresy. Realising he might have misjudged the situation, the singer stirs up a bit of anti-dance feeling: ‘They’re putting DJs on my metal! What is that shit?! ’ If only you could summon Slipknot Batman-style by shining a big clown-shaped lamp in the sky.

For even though they find themselves in the right time and the right place, Alien Ant Farm can’t help saying the wrong thing. They thank their major label record company on stage. They ask whether they’ve done the right thing by going on ‘Top Of The Pops’. ‘No! ’ shout the anti-pop crowd. Yet although AAF dance like old men on running machines and will never look as good as Britney in a python boa, their single is a cover of Michael Jackson‘s ‘Smooth Criminal’. Put out a good song, played fast, you might as well stick a Krugerrand to the cover of every single. ‘Top Of The Pops’ is their natural home. If they could just accept that, then they’d be fine.

‘Courage’ comes out of the speakers like a cement mixer out of a shredder, ‘Summer’ is a suitably butch love song and ‘Whisper’ – ‘These are the words I’m saying/These are the notes they’re playing’ – seems like a touchingly blunt manifesto until you realise it is just whining about the industry that’s about to serve them so well. After all, they’re operating in a genre where the law of diminishing returns has been suspended, an endless Mobius loop made out of bad trousers and baseball caps. Yet the idea that this is instantly better than *NSYNC, more “meaningful” than the Backstreet Boys, just because the singer swears a bit and clears out his sinuses onto the stage is ludicrous.

Being protectively scooped up by Papa Roach has brought AAF an audience, but it also lends them an undesirably weedy ‘Two Little Boys’ vibe. (‘Each had some wooden songs’). They’re also, unfortunately, the ungainliest band in the world. Dryden’s “mad” facial expressions making him look like Joey from ‘Friends’ trying to think, while bassist Tye Zamora and guitarist Terence Corse wave their tongues in the air in a way that makes your fingers twitch for scissors. But hey – who cares what they look like? These aren’t your sell-out pretty boys, right?

If – or more probably, when – AAF become huge, it’s not going to be because of their raw, real metal attitude. It’s going to be because they’re “tight”, because they’re hard-working and – perhaps most significantly – because of The King Of Pop. ‘Thanks for hanging out with us, you guys,’ chirrups Corey before the final loveable thrash through ‘Smooth Criminal’ – and that’s exactly what Alien Ant Farm offer: the experience of hanging out in a suburban Californian basement with a few friends, drinking a few beers and getting told off by the neighbours for playing music too loud. Is that really what you want? Ah, you guys.

Victoria Segal