California produces a great deal of music and music groups. This should come as no surprise since it has the largest population of any state in the United States. This is a good thing because large population bases should produce a representative number of singers, performers, and so forth. What is not so good is that the quality of these productions sometimes suffers when so much is produced as a whole. The Russian army proverb of, ‘Quantity has a quality all of its own’ does not lend itself to music. Alien Ant Farm is one such example of this. Their debut release on a major-label, ANThology is nothing particularly special – just one more Southern California hard rock group with their name on a CD.
Alien Ant Farm consists of frontman Dryden Mitchell, guitarist Terry Corso, bassist Tye Zamora and drummer Mike Cosgrove. All of the members of the group have played or been with other groups before Alien Ant Farm. In 1996, the members – to use their term – “gravitated” toward each other while still playing with other bands and formed their own crew, Alien Ant Farm. The name comes from Corso, who daydreamed one day about the possibility of aliens having placed humans on the planet and tending them similar to humans tending ant farms. In 1999, after developing a strong fan base in the western US and in Europe, Greatest Hits, their first release was given the award of “Best Independent Album” at the L.A. Music Awards.
Members of the group claim varied influences. Mitchell lists The Beatles, Tracy Chapman and Edie Brickell as his main influences. Corso claims that his mother kept him well supplied with KISS albums as a child, and them along with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin are his influences. Zamora says that disco is one of his larger influences along with the hard rock group Primus. Cosgrove has a varied list of favorites with Metallica and Michael Jackson sharing company with Sting and Sade.
While the group may use different rock genres as their main influences, the product is pure hard rock. Mitchell is the songwriter for the group and says that his songs are therapy. “Most of the songs were written during a breakup. Writing them was better then me chasing someone around who didn’t wanna be chased.” Cosgrove says that “the lyrics are always sharp and witty.” This, quite simply, is a matter of opinion.
The CD is loud, no question about it. Loud doesn’t always mean better though. It is unfortunate but this group seems to be under the impression that louder will make up for barely adequate songwriting and questionable instrumental skills. The lyrics are, for the most part, self-indulgent. Mitchell claims that they were therapy. If that is the case, for his sake, the doctor had better still be in. Whining about the tough breaks in life with hard guitar riffs and loud background effects makes music not. It is unfortunate that even his voice isn’t that special. The angry undertone of most hard rock grows weary after a while and Alien Ant Farm is no exception. After repeated listens, it is difficult to find any lyrics or instrumentation that would be worthy of repeated listening.
Granted, the best way to hear a hard rock group is live. Music such as this is best expressed in an up close and personal way. Synergy that is produced by live hard rock is something that music performers strive for. However, being loud in person and loud on a CD player are different things. Without that synergy, ANThlogy is nothing more than loud hard rock filled with simple lyrics and barely adequate musical accompaniment . Why Alien Ant Farm was signed to a major label is beyond comprehension. One must have to be from Southern California to understand.