Adam and Ants Back as ‘Prince Charming’
HE WEARS an old-fashioned, double-breasted admiral’s jacket with plush lining and buttons the size of shillings. A sash and a wide belt gird his waist, and a ribbon binds one leg like a tourniquet above this thigh-high black boot. His fingernails are bright red. His thin right eyebrow shoots alarmingly toward his temple at a 45-degree angle, and a painted heart sits above his left eye. Stripes of Indian makeup adorn one cheek.
This is Prince Charming, better known as Adam Ant.
Prince Charming is the title of Adam & the Ants’ new album (Epic ARE37615), and it’s the role that head-ant Adam has adopted for the British band’s second go-round at stardom. Adam is one of the leading figures in the recent flush of dandyism that hasn’t seemed to help England out of its depression. Adam and fellow “new romantics” support the theory that the harder the times, the more flamboyant the escapist fantasies.
This Prince Charming character isn’t all that different from Adam’s earlier swash-buckler persona, and the album doesn’t move far from Adam & the Ants’ established turf. It’s a record that the fans will have no trouble liking, and there’s a track or two that might win a few more. For a band whose musical value has been severely questioned, it’s a fairly solid showing.
The group’s quirky pop-rock is laced with exotic elements, and most of the time the lyrics aim to reassure his fashionable followers (“Ridicule is nothing to be scared of”) and boost the movement. Then there are his tributes to romantic archetypes: the Indian, the cowboy, the highwayman. And himself.
Adam loves to sing about himself, so rap music, with its boastful slant, is just made for him. In ‘Ant Rap’, he celebrates Adam & the Ants, recruits new converts, scorns nihilistic punkers and advises against drunkenness. If this is a revival of the mid-70’s glitter period, it’s a strangely puritanical variation; Adam is that rare creature: a sex symbol who promotes virginity.
Adam tends to get tiresomely pompous when he’s so self-involved. More fun are the fanciful excursions, into the Old West (‘5 Guns West’, where Adam offers one of his infrequent moments of irony: “I’m a big tough man with a big tough plan,” he minces), and Indian territory (‘Mowhok’).
Most of the melodies are simple chants, and while the old tribal beat is prominent, much of Side 2 takes off into an experimental, somewhat fragmented style. ‘Stand and Deliver’, in contrast, comes close to the thumping hysteria of the glitter era’s great Chinn-Chapman records (Suzi Quatro, the Sweet, et al).
The most intriguing cut by far is ‘Picasso Visita el Planeta de los Simios’. Discarding the foreign-language conceit, that’s a “Picasso Visits the Planet of the Apes,” and it portrays the artist as “a fat little magpie/with money in his eyes,” and comes with a gloriously catchy chorus reminiscent of the early Kinks’ best.
Several other cuts are simply dull, but part of the charm of rock ‘n’ roll is that it can often be fun despite its limitations. Adam has the magnetism and immediacy to make his appearance an event. You can’t argue with screaming girls. Prince Charming may not set the world on fire, but it keeps the ball rolling.
© Richard Cromelin, Los Angeles Times, 5 December 1981