Adam Ant – by John Robb
This a story of a musical legend, the last of the punk rockers, a glam rock genius, a virtuoso pop star attempting a long awaited comeback with an ever increasing series of sporadic gigs in London.
Adam Ant is back amongst us.
With news of a new album, ‘Adam Ant Is The Blueblack Hussar in Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter’ (what a title! Already sounds great), due in January and two pre xmas shows at the Electric Ballroom on December 16 and a major headline show on Dec 21 at the Kentish Town HMV Forum we seem to be on the verge on a new Ants invasion.
Adam Ant is the great-lost pop star whose found himself again. His low key gigs in London have defied his bipolar condition and show that he is still in touch his creative genius. At 56 he looks stunning and dresses with a killer touch. A flurry of kilts, jewelry, ever increasing tattoos, Mad Hatter headgear and razor sharp cheekbones with fuck you make up- it’s like he has by passed his superstar phase and gone straight back to the wild Adam of yore. That’s the punk period Adam on stage alongside Jordan playing out his freak show anthems to the Ant fans in one of the most far out, out there episodes of British pop and even punk.
Because the initial Ants were about as punk rock as you could get. They were fantastically weird with dark songs that re-wrote musical convention and came dressed to kill in bondage and Kabuki killer panstick.
When the big time came Adam was mistakenly labelled a pantomime pop personae and dismissed by ”Ëserious’ critics but for those that know, he is a pop genius.
Those first two albums, ”ËDirk Wears White Sox’ and ”ËKings Of The Wild Frontier’ are amazing works. ”ËDirk’ was the ultimate in zigzagging art school rock- it was tough and weird but also fantastic pop- Adam was always one of the great singers and brought his weird songs to life with a deft melodic touch.
The early Ants were the heaviest and weirdest punk band of them all and for a year or so were the carriers of the original sex, style, subversion spirit of the Sex shop punk rock revolution before turning into the unlikeliest of pop stars in the early eighties. Their fans were the antfans- the freakiest, heavy-duty looking crew in the country who were a blur of studs, feathers, warpaint and Mohicans before anyone else even knew what these were.
They massed from all over the country or from the London punk squats and when the Ants broke through the disconsolate Antfans split to follow the Southern Death Cult and watched shocked as Adam suddenly attracted screaming teenyboppers- there is a great description of this tour in the amazing Vague fanzine from back in the early eighties.
Adam Ant broke though with ”ËKings Of The Wild Frontier’ which was an amazing work- an avant-garde, pop kaleidoscope. The album resulted from when Adam asked the late Malcolm Mclaren in to help with the band after the release of ”ËDirk’. He then watched aghast whilst Mclaren stole the Ant-band to form Bow Wow Wow.
A desolate Adam phoned Marco and put together the new Ants and, adding Malcolm’s ideas, created a 3D pop soundtrack that gatecrashed the charts- making most people forget just amazingly off the wall this music was.
Pop music in the early eighties was not like this.
Pop music in any decade was not like this.
Re-listen to ”ËKings’ now and you will be blown away but its vision and its attractive, cinematic strangeness.
After that there were still sublime moments of pop genius like ”ËStand And Deliver’ and ”ËPrince Charming’ and there were still hits before he slipped away from the limelight.
Like all talented people Adam had the highs and the lows and the lows were fierce and difficult. There was the publicised court case and a tabloid witch-hunt but Adam came out the other side.
Instead of choosing the money spinning eighties package tours he has gone back to the grass roots. The kind of feral, sweaty clubs that he worked in the first place and it is here that he has honed down his new vision.
He plays some of the hits but also the real classics. The set list is made up of the darkly sexy ”ËPhysical’, the plainly bizarre ”ËRed Scab’, the brilliant ”ËThe Day I Met God’, and the hypnotic ”ËCleopatra’ – utterly original songs that sound like no-one else and how rare is that in rock music? Songs that were as ground breaking musically as any of the lauded post punk bands who get the all the praise that Adam deserves but doesn’t get because of his fuckability and sex music- two things that post punk didn’t have much of.
The recent show at the Scala was a tribute to the late and great Matthew Ashman who was one of the original Ant guitar players who played on ”ËDirk’ before absconding to Bow Wow Wow. Ashman’s deft guitar work decorated another moment of pop genius in BWW and provided the template to everything John Frusciante ever did in the Chilli Peppers. Bow Wow Wow reformed for the gig with Annabella sounding amazing and Adam himself hit a new peak.
The band, made up of fab glam rock droogs from Rachel Stamp amongst other sounded lean and mean, and Adam was a charismatic presence.
The time is right for the new album. Pop is dull and loose canons are welcome. And a piratical presence like Adam truly understand what a loose canon is and where to put it.
At the moment it all bodes well for 2011.