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[Off The Record]
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Alien Ant Farm
(New Noize/DreamWorks)

New-metal vanity labels are all the rage these days. It hasn’t been even a year since Papa Roach released their monster debut album and already the band are foisting their friends’ records upon an unsuspecting public.

Alien Ant Farm, the first signing to Papa Roach’s New Noize label, used to share California club dates with their benefactors, but they’re no carbon-copy P-Roach imitation. For one thing, AAF singer/songwriter Dryden Mitchell isn’t as angry or tortured as head Roach Coby Dick — he does write about his frustrations a lot, but his songs always have an upside. His pop instincts shine through on the first single, " Movies, " an upbeat break-up song that sets the mood. The band ultimately sound less influenced by metal than by classic alterna-rock, with nary a nod to hip-hop or hardcore. The fussy rhythm section is the weak link, but Mitchell makes up for that with his cutting vocals and personal approach to songwriting. On " Happy Death Day, " he shows flashes of sardonic wit beneath the introspection ( " Papa’s got a brand new body bag for you " ). But Alien Ant Farm’s funniest joke is their disco-metal cover of Michael Jackson’s " Smooth Criminal, " a relatively faithful version featuring plenty of upper-register yelps from Mitchell.


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