Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Adam Ant

I was a fan of Adam and The Ants back in the day, and, judging by the reaction that produces, I should explain: I liked everything the guy did up to Prince Charming. That means, no, I didn't really fall for his mid 1980's term as a pop star. I was a fan of his Art-punk abstraction, before I even knew that this is what he was doing. See, he just seemed like one of the few interesting pop stars to me- he was referencing Dada, Futurism, Spaghetti Westerns, Tribal "talking drums", Roxy Music, Elizabeth Taylor, and B movies, not to mention bondage, Pirates, the history of Native peoples, and the rest of what you already know. Basically, he was putting Europe between the World Wars in a blender with early 1960's cinema from underground to Epic and making spiky pop music out of it. Which, if you think about it, presages our post-modern hyperlinked pop culture present. Later, it did smooth out to standard pop music, but up until 1982, I'd consider his stuff as artistically valid as David Bowie.
So, he has lost his mind since then. Don't get me wrong, that's not meant to damn him. I say that with the utmost  sympathy, as much as I would for Roky Erickson. He has had success as an actor, seen his music fall in and out and back into fashion. But, in the background, he's seen the inside of psychiatric institutions, and rather than being on overly romanticised street drugs, has struggled with medication for bipolar disorders.  I think it's a testament to the human will to survive that he's still here.
So, he has a new double LP out, and I got it.  Ye gads. It's not exactly easy listening. First, it must be said that Adam never had the most tuneful voice- stuck halfway between a croon and a yodel, it's not exactly Mark Lanegan or Elizabeth Frasier here. But the spirit of adventure is back. He's made his version of the self-produced lo-fi, bedsitters LP. It goes between swampy blues, Bacharach torch ballads, and Eddie Cochrane styled rockers, and mostly is coated in a thick syrup of fuzz, with the vocals mixed very, very high. So, it's like listening to your cousin's band's demo tape. The flashes of brilliance you hear are undercut by the amateurish execution. But, I want the reader and potential listener to consider something- this is Adam Ant, here. He's a veteran. He's had some of the most talented musicians, producers, and engineers on his speed dial for the past quarter century. If he wanted to release "Friend or Foe, pt 2" he easily could have put that together. So, this album sounds intentionally unmixed. He's making a point. Also, several of the songs are polished, fully realized pop rock songs- so he could have put out just those, and cashed in on a "comeback". So, I'd like you to consider that maybe he has his sights set on something a bit different from some kind of "comeback".  I think he's shooting for something akin to what the Raveonettes were lauded for, or perhaps a more idiosyncratic version of what Bob Pollard is known for- this is a kind of fetishizing of the songwriting process- trying to catch the best moment of a song- whether it's at the rough demo stage, or the epic showstopper. What I'm asking you do is trust the experience and intelligence. I think there's a pretty good pay off in that. But, if you can't make it all that way, fair enough. I don't think everyone can give that much trust. Just don't think that he's trying to re-live past glories, here. The one thing conspicuously absent is nostalgia.


  1. I love this post. I could not have described the album and the whole situation any better. Also, I'm hoping that you don't mind if I appropriate your Bob Mould quote.


  2. Feel free, I copped it from either Blurt of Magnet magazine

  3. Hmmm. Your comment perplexed me, so I did a little looking, and I guess I can see what you mean. I was really unaware. I'm an American. A very strange American, in that I wasn't raised in America for half my youth, and neither of my parents are American, and most of my friends aren't American, but I'm still American. I think that may play into it: Americans are suckers for "authenticity" we hear a flubbed note, or a botched take, and we think we've heard a bit of the artist's "authentic" self. Before you think that's over-reach, consider this: We still love Bob Dylan for precisely that.