Adam & the Ants: Kings of the Wild Frontier (Epic NJE37033)

IMAGINE AN obsessive singer who calls to mind an earthbound version of glitter-era David Bowie, and a guitarist who draws from sources as diverse as Link Wray and Mick Ronson. Add a rhythm section that seems to have survived the 1977 London blitz intact and throw in a second drummer for good measure. Toss these ingredients together; combine with songs that dwell on the singer’s obsessions — American Indian culture, pirates, Spaghetti westerns — and you have what may be the most successfully silly musical organization to appear since the Monkees, maybe even the Mickey Mouse Club gang!

Unlike those two organizations, Adam and the Ants aren’t puppets of established media manipulators. They flaunt their roots at every opportunity, but their vision — and sound — is strictly their own.

‘Dog Eat Dog’, one of this album’s three major singles hits in Britain, is a prime example of Antmusic. It picks up steam gradually, with percussion and Indian war whoops joined by twangy guitar and bass. Then Adam’s voice comes in supported by a chanting chorus. Guitar turns percussive, beating counterrhythms on damped strings, and finally the second drum crashes through like a summer cloudburst. The effect is riveting.

It’s that way throughout: rock Indian chants and Afro percussion. The combination can be inane (as when a punk cry “oi-oi-oi” surfaces between sections of the Ennio Morricone-meets-Duane Eddy number, ‘Los Rancheros’) but often inspired.

Titles like ‘Antmusic’, ‘Ants Invasion’ and ‘The Magnificent Five’ don’t promise much in the way of lyrics, but even among these light-hearted romps there is usually a message. The group is particularly caught up in self-absorption, differentiating its “Antmusic” and “Antpeople” (followers, natch) from “Sexpeople” and “Sexmusic.”

Many will undoubtedly be put off and even offended by Adam and the Ants’ methods. For my money, Kings of the Wild Frontier is a fine madness.

© Dave SchulpsTrouser Press, April 1981

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