Tuesday, 14 February 2017
No Apologies For The Infinite Radness 1.2.2 - "Movies" (Alien Ant Farm)
I'm not sure there are many songs that tie my musical journey down to so precise a time period as this one. Alien Ant Farm are not a cool band anymore. They barely were at the time. They dropped from the cultural radar so quickly after the lumbering mess of the "Movies" re-release that I assumed they'd broken up. Maybe it was because of the rumours of how much the rest of the band hated their lead single that gave me that impression, or how boring everything they did after their first two singles was. Hell, even their debut album name suggested a band with a short lifespan: you don't name your first album on a major label ANThology unless you don't believe you'll ever get the chance to slap that pun over a singles collection (what I learned today: they called their first, independently-released album "Greatest Hits").
Looking back, things went wrong for AAF almost immediately. It's never a great sign when you reach the height of your fame with a cover version, especially one which gets talked about more for the video than the arrangement (which for the record is basically competent). With "Smooth Criminal" by any measure a massive success, and with no unreleased tracks on ANThology that could possibly reach those same heights, there was only one obvious move: re-release the debut single, but with a new and much more expensive video. The second video for "Movies" is a fucking horrific Day-Glo nightmare:
I hate that video for all sorts of reasons (ha ha ha he had his dick hidden in his popcorn HA HA HA!) but my main objection is the the degree to which it totally misses the point of the song. "Movies" isn't a song about films, it's about the moments in your life that feel like a film. Or at least, the kind of moments that feel like perfect subject matter for a film's closing moments.
Specifically, the song is - obviously - about a dying relationship, and the decision to kill it off for good. To slay a gigantic, lumbering beast that belongs to the past, as the original video takes pains to point out. It's a hell of a job, but it has to be done. That's why you need all that scruffy-ghet noise from those electronic guitar devices: taking down Godzilla requires a soundtrack with some bite to it. To the extent the term ever made any sense and wasn't just a warning label for a creatively bankrupt genre of leaden un-rock, this is the template nu-metal should have followed. Same riffs, less irony.
But what really makes this track special - aside from that juicy-as-hell descending bass riff at 00:18 - are the hints of calm acceptance that pepper the histronics and chugging guitars. It captures perfectly that period at the very end of a soured relationship in which the sudden release of obligation and restrictions makes the person you've spent days/weeks/months/years (delete as applicable) barely able to stay in the same room with seem not that bad after all. Like a president leaving the White House, nothing boosts your approval rating of a terrible partner like the act of disentangling yourself from them.
The feeling never lasts, obviously. But that's a different song.