Antics In The Forbidden Zone

Adam Ant

Epic Records, 1990

http://www.adam-ant.net

REVIEW BY: Alicia St. Rose

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/20/1999

Stewart Leslie Goddard was restless. It was 1975, he was a married man at 20, living with his new bride and her family. He was proper husband, doing odd jobs around the house and attending classes at art school. But he was leading a double life.

He'd signed up for a class in erotic art and found that he had an affinity for the subject. In no time he was immersed in the realm of sadomasochism. He began dressing in black leather bondage clothing and adopting an attitude that didn't go over well with the in-laws at home. After some therapy he realized that he was not ready for marriage, effectively dropped the bride and started his liaison with music.

He had already been in a band called Bazooka Joe which was short lived. He formed a band called the B-Sides which stalled for lack of a drummer. He toyed with the idea of changing his name and eventually chose "Adam" because the garden of Eden had appealed to him; and since the Beatles had gotten along well with an insect name, "ant" might be propitious in his case.

In 1977 he formed Adam and the Ants and it was around this time that he started hanging around Malcolm McClaren's SEX shop in London. At the time McClaren was the manager of the Sex Pistols and Annabella Lewinn. He soon became Adam's manager and mentor suggesting the band don pirate garb and add a second drummer. He introduced the group to the Burundi beat which would distinguish so many of the Ant songs. Under the auspices of McClaren, Adam and the Ants released one album, Dirk Wears White Socks.

This is where Antics in The Forbidden Zone picks up. The album chronicles the evolution of the Adam Ant sound through 21 tracks from the Dirk Wears White Socks to the album Vive Le Rock. The flashback potential is high and it is a nice excursion through Ant's pre-mellow years as the glam rock icon of the 80's. Behind all the glitter, leather and paint was an indefatigable performer whose message of hedonism, sex and just plain fun was delivered with integrity through well crafted pop songs, and a furious thumping set of drums.

The four cuts from Dirk Wears White Socks reveal the Ants in their nascence. Their sound is not distinct enough to distinguish them from the host of other punk bands of the day but the lyrical content was anything but run of the mill. Ant was quick to proclaim his proclivity towards the leather bound S&M world with his early single "Whip In My Valise". Lyrics like "Who taught you to torture/who taught ya" and "you put my head in the stocks/then you went to choose a cane/...I can't thank her/My Sunday spanker" were probably enough to have Ant placed firmly on the BBC's most wanted OFF the radio list.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Shortly after the release of this album, Ant was left high and dry after McClaren conscripted the Ants to work behind the nymphette, Lewinn, in Bow Wow Wow. Undaunted, he rounded up another small colony (including Marco Pirroni who he would collaborate with for many years after). This new incarnation re-recorded "Car Trouble" from the Dirk Wears White Socks album, and the Ants trademark sound was born. This is the version we hear on the compilation with the thunderous Burundi style drumming.

The five tracks from Kings Of The Wild Frontier reveal a tighter, more polished sound, more complex arrangements and a broader scope of subject matter. Ant always asserted that his music fit no genre and to make his point he released the anthem "Ant Music"( my personal favorite). This is the most melodic of his releases with vocals and guitars bouncing off a virtual wall of percussion. "Kings Of The Wild Frontier" and "Killer In The Home" display a new social consciousness, especially concerning the plight of Native Americans. "Los Rancheros" is a rockabilly ode to Clint Eastwood. And with "Dog Eat Dog" we're left to ponder its exact meaning.

After Kings Of The Wild Frontier, Adam dropped the Ants, save Pirroni, for lack of enthusiasm and became a solo act. The difference was hardly discernable on the next album, Prince Charming. The title cut is the standout with its tribal vocal intro and steady mesmerizing ryhthm. "Ant Rap," on the other hand, proved that rap is not the arena for yodeling and he'd do best to sidestep the territory completely.

"Stand And Deliver" displays Ant at his cockiest as he sings "I'm the dandy highwayman who you're too scared to mention/I spend my cash on looking flash and grabbing your attention" - and, of course the wickedly derisive chorus "Stand and deliver your money or your life!/Try and use a mirror no bullet or a knife!. A b-side to the single called "Beat My Guest" indicated that the whip had not been forsaken.

Friend Or Foe introduced a brassier sound with a horn section heralding the proclaimation "Desperate But Not Serious". This new ingredient accents the songs well giving them a more exotic flare and underscoring Ant's cheekiness. In "Friend Or Foe" he sings "I've tried and try tried/To take care of my insides/Nobody's perfect so leave me if you object/I want those who get to know me/To become my admirers or my enemies".

Friend Or Foe represented Ant at the crest of his career. Strip precipitated his decline. It didn't help that the BBC banned the single "Strip". How they managed to overlook Ant yelling "pussy" in the background of "Puss 'n Boots" is beyond me (maybe they figured this was a nursery rhyme). These two songs were produced by Phil Collins and they lack a lot of what made Ant great - and they have too much of what made 80's Genesis lackluster.

The compilation rounds out with two songs from the album Vive Le Rock. "Apollo 9" and the title cut which proved that Ant could rebound from Strip and still rock, albeit, a little less than in the heydays. Shortly after this album, Ant took a sojourn from music to do theater and television work.

So Antics In The Forbidden Zone does a great job of encapsulating the early career of one of the most dynamic performers of the 80's. Too often, Ant was dismissed as a flashy pinup idol for the teenybopper set.; a poster boy for the fickleness of the UK charts. But once you enter the "forbidden zone" you will see that there was more to Prince Charming than the glitter.

Rating: B+

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© 1999 Alicia St. Rose and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.