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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Adam Ant: Every Album A Winner!

It's easy to discount the flamboyant popsters in our culture until they deliver something that we relate to (like a hard rock guitar hit).  But, unlike Culture Club filling the Tommy James void and bands like Wham!, General Public, Style Council, Katrina & The Waves, etc. doing Motown style hits, Adam Ant entertained us with a unique audio and visual stamp while alluding to sounds we think we might have known, but never actually had delivered to us in this way.  The revolution that brought this about, of course, was David Bowie.  And don't let people tell you it was mainly Roxy Music, Kraftwerk, T.Rex, Alice Cooper, Kiss, Velvet Underground, or anyone else with good ideas.  Bowie was the revolution that blew our minds with every song on every record the way The Beatles had in the '60's and is blatantly responsible for the flurry of tasteful synth hits from bands rising up the charts from '79 through '84.  Not to mention his trailblazing fashion.  Obviously, Roxy Music and Kraftwerk influenced those who actually bought the synths that made the future, but popstars in the MTV era were carrying the torch from Bowie's domination of the artform.

What Stuart Goddard (Adam Ant) brought to the '80's was his own little mini revolution.  This was new pop and new rock.  Powerful, but fun.  And, intelligent.  Overtly sexual ?  Yes.  Costumes & Make-up ?  Yes.  Danceable ?  Yes.  Disposable ?  Never.  Not the albums as a whole anyway.  And unlike the more important Gary Numan, Adam didn't lose sight of the goal and start delivering albums that shouldn't have existed.  Each Ant release is different from the next and all have great songs.  Creative, hard-hitting, and fun.  Isn't this what good music is all about?

Back in '82, when radio drilled "Goody Two Shoes" into us, I had no idea that this artist already had several albums under his belt.  I also didn't know there would be anything else from him.  As if, maybe, this song was too good to repeat.  What did I know?  I was still young and trying to re-buy albums I was raised on before entering foster homes.  Had I been in the family of my birth at the time, this wouldn't have happened.  But, I was fighting the present while trying to cherish the past.  Not completely, but I had a musical history that I didn't know that the strange new artists on radio also had.  If I'd even thought they had been raised on the same stuff, I'd have trusted them a bit sooner.  Of course, I was only days, weeks, months behind.  Not years, like some people.  I did prick up my ears to The B-52's, The Pretenders, Gary Numan, and Devo.  Blondie and The 3 O'Clock too, by force, but I liked 'em eventually.  The Police and Talking Heads took even longer to learn about, but became bigger favorites when I did.  After leaving foster care in '83, I began filling in the gaps in my collection of '80's records now that I was working and could afford to not steal records anymore.  (Back in foster care, if Christmas and birthdays didn't cover a year's needs, then yes, I'd steal some from the department stores Gemco, Zody's, and K-Mart.  Never at the smaller places like Licorice Pizza, The Wherehouse, or Peaches.  I'd drop a load of pennies and piss-off the clerk at those fine establishments.  Though, I did pay as a first option even at department stores, if I had some money.)

But, the '80's revolution had given-up-the-ghost by the time I graduated high school in '86.  And as shocking as the about face was on the charts.  I was still overwhelmed with the prospect of buying all the records I'd missed out on from '77 to '83.  Adam & Marco (his guitarist/collaborator from the second album on) were part of the puzzle I had to build.  Upon my return to the original albums, I found great songs everywhere.  Interesting parts, different styles, killer melodies, and vocal gymnastics.  All that the hits had implied, but so many more great songs.  There easily could have been a 2-CD set of Antics In The Forbidden Zone instead of one.

Proof of Adam's staying power is found in how people feel when hearing one of his songs unexpectedly.  People are always pleasantly surprised or already casual fans of his music.  This is contrary to the press on him being too camp to be taken seriously.  It's been very easy to find a song that people from different walks of life can enjoy from Adam's catalog.  This is quite amazing to me considering his look and behavior as an artist.  This could be said of Bowie too, but Adam isn't weird in the stiff way that Bowie is.  I've had more difficulty showing people the smarter and darker sides of The Beach Boys and The Ramones than playing an Ant song outloud!  Even his serious albums of '89 and '95 don't come off dark.

So, here now, his albums and the must-have songs on each ...

Dirk Wears White Sox : Zerox, Car Trouble, Digital Tenderness, Nine Plan Failed, Family Of Noise, Tabletalk, Cleopatra, Never Trust A Man (With Egg On His Face), Animals And Men.

This is the album I discovered last (not including Wonderful) and was blown away at how good it was.  Instantly my favorite punk era rock album.  A forward-thinking slice of the past is what I found when I discovered this album.  The only sadness is that it sonically can't hold a candle to the rest of his catalog.  But hearing all the great songs from it live when he toured in the '90's, you'd swear it was a new release.  That's how edgy these tunes are.  Such was the nature of new music in '79.

Kings Of The Wild Frontier : Kings Of The Wild Frontier, Antmusic, Dog Eat Dog, Los Rancheros, Killer In The Home.

The album that came from a rethink after the fiasco of losing his first album band.  And what a way to return to the world.  A completely new approach.  (Although "Kick" and "Car Trouble" were signposts.)  Tribal drums, Western guitar, warpaint and manifestos.  The revolution has a bold new face.

Prince Charming : Stand And Deliver, 5 Guns West, Picasso Visita El Planeta De Los Simios.

On first look, a continuation of the last record, but definitely not memorable.  It does contain, though, the greatest unknown classic in history with "Picasso Visits The Planet Of The Apes" and the forever excellent "Stand And Deliver."  Also a great slice of entertainment is "5 Guns West" which sounds like it belongs on the previous record.

Friend Or Foe : Friend Or Foe, Desperate But Not Serious, Goody Two Shoes, Place In The Country, Something Girls, Made Of Money, Here Comes The Grump.

The album that finally made him a household name.  For a while anyway.  Featuring songs so likable, he couldn't be denied.  But like many thick productions, one has to find the thinner songs for sonic relief.  The two I love from this record fitting that description are "Here Comes The Grump" and "Made Of Money."  Both happen to have honest lyrics about this stage in his career and have appropriate music to match.

Strip : Strip, Puss 'n' Boots, Playboy.

Phil Collins produces and plays ?!  Too bad I dislike the album.  But three of my favorite '80's tunes on the same record?  It took me years to burn-out on "Strip" and "Puss 'n' Boots."  Mind-blowing productions of beauty.

Vive Le Rock : Vive Le Rock, Apollo 9, P.O.E., Hell's Eight Acres, Scorpio Rising.

A full-on rock album?  A 50's sensibility, but an '80's punch!  Two more perfect hits and a boost to his reputation.  "Vive Le Rock" seemed to do for Adam what "Rebel Rebel" did for Bowie.  Where Bowie's tune attacked with that classic hook, Adam punched a hole into the changing '80's with spot-on lyrics defending Rock 'n' Roll in the face of new frivolous music fads.  Everyone who ever loved a rock song of any kind could rise up and take a stand with Adam on this one.  Again, the music on the track matched the message.  Undeniable strength and intelligence.

Manners & Physique : Room At Top, If You Keep On, Picadilly, Young Dumb And Full Of It, Anger Inc.

"Room At The Top" charted, was played often, and definitely sounded confident, but then...poof!  Where'd he go?  Where'd the album go?  Are there gonna be any more records from this hit making giant?  Guess not.

Wonderful : Won't Take That Talk, Wonderful, 1969 Again, Yin & Yang, Image Of Yourself, Alien.

The return.  And, not just a return, but a return up the charts with "Wonderful."  Proof positive that anytime, anywhere, the world is open for an Adam Ant album.

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Peel Sessions & Antbox : Ligotage.

This song should have been added to the first album.  A masterpiece!

B-Side Babies : Fall In, Friends, Juanito The Bandito, Why Do Girls Love Horses, Human Bondage Den, Christian D'or, B-Side Baby, Greta X.

A nice compliment to his hits collection Antics In The Forbidden Zone.  "Juanito..." is like having another Adam/Marco Western right there on vinyl.  So perfect.  "Greta X" just kicks butt.  "B-Side Baby" is a classic slab of rock.  Somewhere between pop and rock lies the great "Christian D'or."  "...Horses" is more comedy ala "Juanito..."  "Fall In" is a great warm-up rave-up from the early period and "Friends" is a touch of comedy from the same period.

Antbox : Saigon, Steve McQueen.

Both would be perfect as bonus tracks for Vive Le Rock.  "Saigon" definitely sounds like a natural for inclusion on the album proper.  I feel empowered every time I hear it.

Now, I know there are more good songs.  Kings Of The Wild Frontier has more, though some grate.  Vive Le Rock is perfect from start to finish as far as perfectly melding similar type songs together.  "Vampires" from Wonderful has a great chorus, but unfinished sounding verses.  "Manners & Physique" is a good song musically, but with shallow words.  "Can't Set Rules About Love" seems to run short of words leading up to the chorus...very anti-climatic.  And so on and so on.  But, this list is for the uninitiated.  Those new to Adam Ant, enjoy !

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