Does mentioning the band Alien Ant Farm give you a nostalgia trip back to the early 2000s like it does for me? Well, if it does then you will be delighted to find out that they have just released their first album since 2006, entitled Always and Forever. If their name doesn’t ring any bells, let me catch you up: Alien Ant Farm was a band in the early 2000s that were a part of the “nu-metal” scene, which is just a bad way to say that they played heavier rock mixed with pop, punk and grunge influences. Now that you are all caught up, I’ll put a bit of a disclaimer on the rest of this review, because I have been waiting for this album to be a thing since 2011. Let me tell you that I tried to keep this review as bias-free as I could, but what can I say? I really like this band and this album.
I went into this review thinking this album was going to bomb; that is to say, I was optimistic that it could be good, but I didn’t hold much stock in that belief. That was mainly because of to the rocky road they took to release the album. Through crowdfunding and many, many delays, my belief that this album was going to mimic the prowess and style that AAF was known for steadily diminished. When the time came for the actual release, I was expecting a disheveled album that I wouldn’t be able to listen to. I have never been so happy to be wrong.
The album starts off with that interesting pop-orientated rock sound that characterized the previous albums. The hard hitting riffs of “Yellow Pages” and a stellar vocal performance by Dryden Mitchell give the album a boost right out of the gate. “Simpatico” gives you the weirdly instrumented vibe that AAF does so well, and it could possibly have been a song straight off one of the old albums. “Let ‘em Know”, the lead single for the album, is the perfect song to put the album in perspective, with the first lyrics being “what goes around comes around/it’s almost circular and cyclical.” One of the main highlights on the album has to be the bass riffs, which are quite pronounced and heavy, perfectly framing each and every song.
The middle of the album gets a little flat, which definitely lowers the replay value of the album as an entirety – especially in “Our Time,” a song that is kind of ruined by a strange and out of place rap section. Where I loved this as a part of a song on “Buried Alive” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, this seems kind of out of place and just weird on “Our Time.” “Little Things” and “Sidelines” are songs that are both shippable, but don’t add anything to the album as a whole.
“Homage” is a song that dedicates itself to citing all of their major rock influences within the lyrics. This song is definitely the star of the show, so to speak, because it is the most polished song on the album. I can see it getting major playtime on the radio. The last songs on the album definitely give the album a fantastic conclusion. They give you everything you want out of rock album: heavy guitar-centered songs with hard hitting vocals that kick major ass. Songs like “Better Weather” and “Dirty Bomb” make me come back to AAF every time they put out a new album.
I shrugged off Alien Ant Farm’s Always and Forever almost immediately. Its slugging pop punk riffs and its uninspired-to-downright goofy lyricism seemed like a callback to an era of rock music most fans try to live down (a visit to those forums dedicated to rock music will never find “nu-metal” said without a hint of poison). Sure, it popped with a tasty hint of bubblegum and cried to the heavens with sweeping hooks, but behind all of that seemed like a shameless tinge of brainlessness, where romance springs from “buying skies” and “diving into love, girl,” (“Little Things (Physical)”) and epicness comes from a phone book directory (“Yellow Pages”).
That was until I found myself humming a melody during work one day, tapping out its simple beat and confusingly trying to match its Springsteenian hook with whatever heartland rocker I could think of. Then the words hit me, and suddenly I realized that it was “American Pie’s” admittedly cheesy Fourth-of-July metaphor running through my head.
During that shift, I revisited Always and Forever. It was still a dragging endeavor that lost me somewhere between Call of Duty-commercial levels of machismo (“Godlike” and “Let ‘Em Know”) and whatever you’d call the rapping breakdown in “Our Time,” but it could also be endearing. Take the grounded highway rocker “American Pie” with its red, white and blue romantics and its explosively addictive chorus; or take album centerpiece “Homage,” a song dedicated to the artists that inspired these California pop punkers. Alien Ant Farm even touches up those drab rockers with late-game additions like “Better Weather” that flex leaner guitar muscles than the album’s openers.
Always and Forever isn’t exactly an intellectual dirge. In fact, there’s pretty much nothing to really try and dissect. From the feedback lines of album opener “Yellow Pages” to the rampaging basslines that wrap up closer “Dirty Bomb,” Alien Ant Farm’s comeback seems content to just hammer out a few sloppy pop rockers and call it a day. But, as easy as it is to dismiss Fall Out Boy-ish sports jams (“Sidelines”) and weirdly aggressive friendship (“Simpatico”), that band that so many write off as a one-hit-wonder might just work its way into your heart. You’ll know what I mean when, some dull day, you start humming that unknown hook, and a few words about dropped bombs and the Fourth of July rumble forward with melodic bliss.
Always and Forever is out now on Executive Music.