Ant Farmers


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The Ant Farmers' third album is a return to form after 1993's muddled Yarn. Self-produced and recorded mostly live, direct to a digital four-track, Beautician has a very simple, unsullied sound that puts guitarist Carl Petersen's songs in their best light. The low-key performances direct all of the listener's attention to Petersen's genially twisted lyrics and engaging jangle pop melodies, both of which are at their best here. Singer Jon Little also sounds much better on this album, more relaxed and less strained than he does on the group's earlier discs. A remake of "Nail in the Wall," from their 1990 debut Trailer Park Music, shows how far Little has progressed. However, as usual, the best sounding songs are those Petersen sings lead on himself, particularly the Ass Ponys-like character study "My Brother Melvin" and the twangy "Jim Dandy," dedicated in the liner notes to "Captain James T. Kirk, the poor misunderstood butthole." (It's no surprise that Petersen simply assumed all lead vocal duties himself when Little left the band following this album.) The album's twin highlights are "Help From the Horses," a wistful tune that sounds like a mid-period R.E.M. single covered by Guided By Voices at their least noisy, and the high-stepping hoe-down "Wheatie Back Penny" that closes the album on an exuberant note.

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