We thought since we’ve reviewed a fair quantity of Alien Ant Farm over the last two months or so, that we’d continue our trend and try to get there entire collection done by the end of this week including a gig review from their Wednesday performance in the Warehouse, Birmingham.
Up In The Attic was a weird one with an even weirder reception among fans. The album received vastly negative and mixed views to the extent that the band went on hiatus from the lack of sales. With a slightly different line-up and a different repertoire, the band definitely struggled to portray this to their audience. However how would the album go down here?
I was bought this album as a Christmas present when I was much younger whilst I was a stateside rock head. So I have had plenty of years to review whether I like this album or not and in all honesty… It’s one of my favourites. The problem many had with the bands music on Up In The Attic was mostly centred around the lack of originality and how they weren’t particularly straying from the gloopy mess that was mid 2000s rock. But I think as a collective album for a true college rock fan, it’s pretty on the money.
The album starts with Bad Morning which has a pretty neat little riff and has an abrasive impact from the get go. It’s aggressive and very reminiscent of Courage which was the first track on their Anthology album. The chorus has a nice little hook but the drums and guitar are definitely the more prominent sound in your headphones. It’s tenacious and kicks off the album with a grunt but I must admit it’s not perhaps as catchy as the standard Alien Ant Farm hit.
Forgive and Forget however is much more catchy. It’s got memorable little guitar riff and the vocals really stand out here. For Alien Ant Farm I must admit Dryden’s voice does help a miraculous amount with individualising the band. His tone and capabilities quickly add a massive stylistic approach to any song from the band and quickly makes audiences identify him. His vocals are strong here and the lyrics are very memorable. One of the fan favourite tracks off of the album I think.
What I Feel Is Mine is another tough track that I fell in love with back in the day. The guitar riff is just plain awesome… and angry… and dark; everything a teen wants when listening to a bit of rock. The drums production in this song shine as well with a deep impact bolstering the track with some big thumping to go along with. The vocal melody might not be as catchy as other records but it’s functional and helps accompany the rhythm of the song very well.
It Could Happen is next and again it’s a very different song to their collection. Personally it never hit with me and was always a skippable track on the album but I totally understand what they tried to do here. I just find the melody not particularly catchy and a bit difficult to listen to; the guitar riffs just are about dissonant for a college rock song.
Around The Block and San Sebastian are two album fillers I believe since they don’t stray too much from the AAF formula yet still keep the vibe of the album running along well. Around The Block is a catchy little song with an easy lyrical hook that makes it hummable from the get go, and San Sebastian is more of an acoustic rock song which is easy to listen to on a summery day.
Lord Knows is a very different song on the album and where the album begins to change a bit further. I personally like the little bossa nova influence on this track with a more stabby bass and guitar riff that gives the songs a varied rhythm to others. The chorus is massive too with backing vocals flying everywhere and Dryden showcasing the strength of his voice well too. The transitions even include horn sections that only further adds texture to the track. In my opinion it is very well crafted for a mid album track; it must of been incredibly satisfying to listen back to when in the studio.
Getting closer is a simple riff, with simple instrumental accompaniment but I find it hauntingly satisfying for me; it’s a bitter sweet song. The lyrics are sincere and the harmonies and melodies just create a big sound which hit on a level that gives the song emotional content. There are decorative parts too using various instrumentation whether it be a guitar lick or a bass transition and for me it always keeps me hooked. An often forgot about track on the album yet perhaps one of the best. The bridge is to an acquired taste admittedly but it works for me to bring to halves of a song together well.
Crickets was a childhood favourite for me since it seemed to describe teenagehood relationships perfectly. ‘Silly little things never work out’ is a line I always kept close to myself and makes the track even more memorable. To the non-Alien Ant Farm fan this song would probably seem forgettable, but I love this track. As an acoustic rock track with a bayou back drop and country influence, I think it’s great. I love the lyrics, the accompaniment is functional but I just feel this is Dryden’s more solo type song; it feels more personal.
Supreme lifestyle is another acoustic track on the album which has thought provoking lyrics and catchy moments; it isn’t a song I’d rave to others about but I certainly wouldn’t skip it on an album playthrough.
The next two tracks are my issue however. I feel personally that they were rather unnecessary and actually take away from the full final product. Consti2tion and State of Emergency are two tracks that I think are largely forgetful and a bit too strummy; not well written. They take all the massive emotional weight of the album (it’s momentum) and brings it to a halt having to restart it again once those songs are surpassed. Basically they are album fillers but they are placed in the worst area they could of been placed.
The funniest part is that the next two, and the final two, tracks carry that emotion again. Sleepwalker has a weight behind it that creates a very difficult atmosphere. It’s like a rock ballad but without the cliche. It sounds as if it is coming from a place with huge sincerity again. I know the message behind the track and read it up online and it made immediate sense to me on the re-listen. It’s a sad song and not one recommend if something terrible has recently happened to you. It still has that aggression which I like; it’s like a grungy ballad and completely different to anything I’ve heard before. The transitions are well executed as well too. There are string sections added which add homophonic melodies with Drydens voice and I think it is overall a quite brilliant track.
The last song is She’s Only Evil which is a staple of Alien Ant Farm as a band. Like their other albums, it’s a song that rounds off the album in a big way. It’s an acoustic tune with spanish influences hence meaning the chordal work and guitar licks are incredibly tight and smooth. The lyrics are the shining point for me. There are couple instances of statements similar to heart broken poetry that do play incredibly well on those tear ducts. ‘We’re all just people, dumb, dead and evil’ and ‘Mistakes never feel forgotten, you shoot for the stars but you hit the garden’ are two instances of brilliant song writing. Every line in this song is spoken with great diction and remain in a listeners head for a great period of time. The songs structure is also supportive of this showing a very strong collective effort to finish off this album.
There are two hidden tracks on the album which are progressive pieces of instrumental music which just allow the album to subtly flow and fade out. Are they necessary? No not at all. But are they a nice touch? Yeah I think they are.
So why is it then that the albums reception was so poor? Honestly? Timing. The album came out when the rock scene had shifted into heavier style music and or lighter style pop – rock. The grittiness and angriness of the standard hard-done by teen had dissipated. The youth aren’t angry any more, they are just more sad. When they want to hear a ballad, they don’t want to listen to big guitars and gruff voices, they want to hear piano and some indie cheese sprinkled upon it. Had the album been their first and released in the 2002 era like Anthology, then it probably would of been a worthy addition to the bands collection. Sure there are a couple unneeded tracks on there but then the album is 14 track grouping. It was also the last before the band went on hiatus so the more real fans should of been a bit more supportive of the amount of content left to them before the split. As an Alien Ant Farm fan I’d give this an 8 without question and perhaps would put it above truANT on the pecking order, but as a general music site I think the album is worthy of a solid and appreciable 7.
7/10 – Some near perfect tracks blemished by their placement and the influence from lesser needed songs.