The Ants – The Ants Create Meaning

The Ants
The Ants Create Meaning

The Ants Create Meaning is most certainly one of the most interesting discs I’ve reviewed for Delusions of Adequacy. Normally, ‘interesting’ for me means, “Oh, man, I can’t believe I have to listen to this again to review it.” However, this time, ‘interesting’ means ? well, interesting. The Ants Create Meaning is lyrically unpredictable, but instead of backing up the mostly nonsense lyrics with a bed of grinding guitars a la Arab on Radar, The Ants instead use soft beds of piano or acoustic guitars. The whole disc creates a vibe not unlike the yarns Beck used to spin back in the “Satan Gave Me a Taco” days, which of course is a good thing.

The disc opens with “The Guatemalan,” an upbeat little acoustic folk ditty with cryptic lyrics that attempt to interweave stories about the singer, a Guatemalan, and a Russian soldier. Sure it’s weird, but it really works in a two-minute non-sequitor kind of way. The day-dreamy “Hazy Grace” seems a bit more self-reflective, touching on the fact that the subject found “No less than six piles of dog shit and a smashed skunk on the sidewalk / I hadn’t even gone but half a block in search of better things.” The track breaks down into a nice little nonsense noise whisper for a while after that, and the whole thing just seems so damned surreal that it’s almost soothing. Various noises ring through the background, as if the duo that recorded the song were in a kitchen or a bar (since I heard glasses clanking and water running from a sink).

“Sympathy Card” addresses the ants that crawl all over everything (“If I don’t see them, I feel them / Just like the people that I want to forget”) in life over another soft acoustic guitar. The centerpiece of the track recalls “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam” until the backing vocals kick in, singing about how “The Death March is our gift.” Hearing that chanted while another plaintive voice exclaims, “Celebrate the freedom of the Death March” just sent me into hysterics the first time I heard it. The music is so catchy that this would almost seem serene if I weren’t paying attention to the lyrics. The song drones out at about three minutes, leaving about 40 seconds of random (but gorgeous and lulling) acoustic guitar noodles, leaving me to wonder what exactly I was supposed to get out of the track in the first place.

“Horses” is a pretty solid take of a sad country folk song musically, though the lyrics are pretty out in left field (“Horses inside of me feel like a million diseases that I have not known”). “Whores” is the most surreal listen on the disc, starting off with random electric guitar feedback and noodles winding around an acoustic guitar and a xylophone. The plaintive male vocal is soon joined by a female counterpart, at which point the ‘rhythm’ of the track totally disappears. The duet vocals are downright creepy, and the whole track lends a very uneasy feeling to the psyche. Still, “Whores” is probably the definitive listen of the disc, just because it’s so damned eerie.

“Principles of Proper Living” is a remarkably straightforward flamenco-tinged number that eventually just sort of fades away into a final 90 seconds of nothingness, while “Holiday” completely refutes the previous track with a delicate guitar-and-piano bed that gently supports the cracked egg shells of the plaintive vocals. The backing vocals kick in and completely sway the mood, leading to things getting progressively louder and more eccentric (as the xylophone solo will confirm). Album ending “Colafornia” literally fades in and out of existence, as the voice and guitar are so lulling that, at times, they can hardly be made out at all. Somehow, it’s a perfect ending to this unique collection of sounds.

Well, the male vocalist here ostensibly sounds like J Mascis, and considering that everything here is basically acoustic, the tracks are very scattershot from each other. The lyrics here suggest something way past off-the-wall, coming off almost like some surreal plane of the mind that only the genius or criminally insane can reach. It’s different, it’s soothing, it’s creative and most importantly, it’s interesting. The Ants Create Meaning is definitely worth a listen.