Kings Of The Wild Frontier

Adam And The Ants

CBS, 1980

http://www.adam-ant.net

REVIEW BY: Paul King

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/17/2007

I can vividly remember walking home from a school fete at the tender age of nine, with a thick, white stripe of face paint proudly daubed across my nose and cheekbones. These days, no doubt kids would rather visit the face-painting stall to be made up as characters from the Harry Potter books and films, but in the summer of 1981 there was only one person I wanted to masquerade as: Adam Ant.

By 1981, Adam and his dandified group of Ants were the biggest band in Britain and consequently all over the television, radio and teen magazines. They were also the first band in my nine short years of life that had really mattered to me. Sure, I’d gotten terribly excited watching the Bay City Rollers on Top Of The Pops a few years earlier, but Adam And The Ants were something else entirely. Here was a band that seemed to produce nothing but great songs. I resolutely saved as much of my weekly pocket money as I could and duly purchased the band’s breakthrough Kings Of The Wild Frontier record.

The album was Adam And The Ants’ second LP release and followed the unremarkable post-punk leanings of their debut Dirk Wears White Sox. Between the release of that first album and the arrival of the second, Adam had hooked up with ex-Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, whose major contribution seems to have been in persuading the original line-up of Adam’s band to join nymphet vocalist Annabella Lwin to form Bow Wow Wow.

Undeterred, Adam hooked up with old friend and one-time Siouxsie and the Banshees guitarist Marco Pirroni and proceeded to put together a new version of the Ants. Pirroni was to become a linchpin of the new band, co-writing almost all of the band’s material with Adam and providing a distinctive, Duane Eddy-style guitar sound. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Interestingly, the new line-up was also to feature two drummers, helping to create a sound influenced by the thundering Burundi style of African drumming. Additionally, taking the New Romantic fondness for a bit of lip gloss and eye shadow to almost ludicrous extremes, the band began wearing face paint and dressing themselves in swashbuckling pirate garb. Before long, they had signed with CBS Records and begun the recording sessions that would result in Kings Of The Wild Frontier..

The record begins with the pounding, drum-heavy single “Dog Eat Dog” and amid whistles and caterwauling backing vocals, the song sets forth its message of standing up tall and proud, no matter who you are or where you come from. Sounds like good advice, right? Well, actually, what Adam was really saying was to become a follower of Adam And The Ants and then stand up tall and proud, a similar but decidedly less altruistic philosophy.

“Antmusic,” the second track on the album, starts off with the rhythmic clicking of drum sticks before evolving into a catchy, new wave-ish declaration of the band’s superiority over all other ‘pretenders’ in the pop charts. The chorus lyrics tell you everything you need to know about the song’s message, “So unplug the jukebox and do us all a favour / That music’s lost its taste so try another flavour -- antmusic.” It’s an infectiously crafted pop song with ‘hit’ written all over it and, unsurprisingly, it climbed to the number 2 spot on the UK charts.

Other standout tracks on the album are the tongue-in-cheek “Los Rancheros” (a song that pays homage to the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone), “Killer In The Home,” “Magnificent Five” and “Don’t Be Square (Be There).” The album’s title track is another strong song, appearing at first to be about the fearsome warrior ethic of the Native American “Redskins” but in reality turning out to be nothing more than yet another discourse on the band’s pride in its appearance and music. Are you spotting a theme here yet?

While it certainly demonstrates an unshakable confidence in their music, the self-obsessed nature of many of the band’s songs is also a touch myopic and lends the album a rather shallow, self-centred feel.

Nonetheless, Kings Of The Wild Frontier is a strong album from a band at the peak of its form. It’s a record that is decidedly hard to pigeonhole too, being not quite a new wave record or an excursion into 80s pop, but something strangely straddling the two that’s probably best described as Antmusic.

With the distinctive drum-heavy sound, unorthodox backing vocals and catchy, hook-laden songs, Adam And The Ants succeeds in creating something genuinely original sounding on this album, and there’s not too many bands you can say that about. Not a bad way to start a lifelong love of music.

Rating: B

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