Review Summary: That music's lost its taste, so try another flavour: Antmusic!
In a decade defined by decadence, image and flash, few did more to influence and alter the direction of popular culture during the early 1980's than the UK's Stuart Leslie Goddard, better known to his fans and admirers as Adam Ant. At the peak of his game, dressed in a vintage military cavalry jacket and brandished with war paint across his face, Adam and his Ants released a record that would take England by storm and place him atop the totem of 80's new wave icons: Kings Of The Wild Frontier.
Emerging from the same scene that produced The Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and The Banshees, the first incarnation of Adam & The Ants was a dark, gothic punk band that hinted at it's possibilities, but was, for the most part, quite forgettable. It was at the suggestion of punk rock architect/manager, Malcolm McLaren (New York Dolls, Sex Pistols, Bow Wow Wow) Adam reinvent himself. From this advice, Adam Ant would look towards tribal drum beats, the American Old West and fashion himself after the classic pirates of the high seas. An image was born and all that was needed was a sound to match. With the help of former Banshee and new writing partner, Marco Pirroni, as well as a whole new band of Ants, Adam would create his strongest and most memorable work in Kings Of The Wild Frontier.
Matching the look of Adam and his band of merry men, the songs of Kings Of The Wild Frontier
reflect a sound of tribal warriors, pistol wielding hombres and swashbuckling marauders. Opening with the heavy Burundi drum beat that would be a theme of the record, “Dog Eat Dog”
sets the table for the kind of ride Adam & The Ants have in store. Far more accessible than anything on the Ant's debut (Dirk Wears White Socks
), “Dog Eat Dog”
, and the tracks that follow, break new ground for the band and push them far into pop territory. No longer carrying the punk rock banner (yet not quite abandoning the DIY principles of punk) Adam & The Ants push forward with a collection of colorful, themed songs, held together with war chants and yodeling that have rarely been achieved successfully before or after.
The album reaches an early peak on the second track, the UK smash that put Adam & The Ants on the map, “Antmusic”
(#2 UK – 1/81). One of the few tracks on the record that doesn't make allusion to historical imagery, the single is a crowd pumping anthem, proclaiming "Antmusic" to be the remedy to cure the tired and stale sound emanating from the juke. “So unplug the jukebox and do us all a favour - That music's lost its taste, so try another flavour: Antmusic”.
With a riff straight out of the old west, “Los Rancheros”
brings us back to the era of cowboys and Indians, complete with pistols firing and shout-outs to Clint Eastwood. What “Los Rancheros”
does to emulate the Old West, “Jolly Roger”
does for the era of treasure hunting, pillaging and plundering. “It's your money that we want and your money we shall have!”
the band declares, as the sound of gold pieces fall. While this pair of songs depict the sounds of their respective eras, both come across with more a sense of parody than homage. The album reaches it's potential in the guitar-muted, yodeling climax of “Killer In The Home”
, a song that fully captures the Native American essence it sets out to embody.
The Ants don't let up on the following title track, “Kings Of The Wild Frontier”.
The dual drummers take center stage, pounding away their Burundi beat as Adam proclaims “I feel beneath the white there is a red skin suffering - from centuries of taming.”
It is within these tracks that Adam, Marco and the rest of the Ants most successfully achieve their goals of creating an original image and atmosphere to match.
Later tracks, such as “Physical (You're So)”
and “The Human Beings”
, revert back to the original Ants sound, found on their debut - but still maintain the songwriting prowess of the tracks that shape the direction of the album.
While many records to come out of the early 80's new wave era sound dated and lose their relevance over time, Adam & The Ants managed to make an album that looks to the past to create a sound that maintains relevance the further time pushes into the future. The essence of this record is found in the dual drumming Burundi sound, which, when played at a good volume, have a power and beat unlike anything else. Combine that with the war chanting and solid pop hooks, Adam Ant delivers what would prove to be his masterwork album.
Standout Tracks: Dog Eat Dog, Ants Invasion, Killer In The Home, Kings Of The Wild Frontier.