It's true what they say first impressions really do count. As the vast majority of the 3 million owners of Alien Ant Farm's major label debut, 'ANThology', would probably vouch, the Californian four are the real nu-metal deal- like Linkin Park without the screaming. For others though, their comic/inspired cover of Michael Jackson's 'Smooth Criminal', complete with crotch grabbing yelps and a video of moon walking and monkeys, left a question mark over their sincerity.
While those who sneered may have missed the genius of recasting the pop classic as metal, their tutts of 'novelty' were hard to argue against. Though free of similar comedy gold, 'ANThology''s follow-up is unlikely to convert any of their doubters; not least because it resolutely refuses to stick to the nu-metal code of practice.
Completed one year to the day after the tour bus crash in which singer Dryden Mitchell broke his neck, it would be understandable if 'TruANT' played more to the dark and oppressive, bitter and raging formula. Instead, their too close brush with death seems to have invigorated rather than frustrated them. As if imbued with a sense of indestructibility and the belief that they can pull-off anything they turn their hand to, they fearlessly cast the net further and wider than most would think wise.
The steely chug-alongs are still there, and in the case of '1000 Days' and 'Drifting Apart' they're still galvanized by admirably affective choruses. But elsewhere, their ambitions are unmistakably bigger.
'Glow' shamelessly pins its jaunty acoustics on a ditty that the playground can sing and comes up with the break-up song of the summer. 'Never Meant' has a bizarre tex-mex-reggae lilt of the kind that normally only No Doubt get away with, while 'TruANT''s most endearing moment, 'Tia Lupe' dons a sombrero and sets doomed relationships to a sweet Latino shimmy.
Supremely likeable as they are, such eccentricities would sound ridiculous were it not for the fact that 'TruANT' marks a significant sea change. Under the guidance of Stone Temple Pilots turned producers Dean and Robert DeLeo they now have more in common with Jane's Addiction and the Red Hot Chili Peppers than they do their former mentors Papa Roach.
Even standard rockers 'Sarah Wynn' and 'These Days' come with an exaggerated LA swagger and a slick FM pop sensibility, confirming their assent to rock's bigger picture. Detractors may still scoff, but if their regeneration prompts more of the smartly infectious same, it can only be a good thing.