As pop legend Adam Ant returns to his punk roots, Getintothis’ Shaun Ponsonby looks back to the Dandy Highwayman’s debut.
80s pop icon Adam Ant is taking to the Arts Club stage in April. Since returning to live performances in 2011, he has graced both the Academy and the Philharmonic Hall, and this time round, at the slightly smaller venue, he is set to play his début album with The Ants, 1979’s Dirk Wears White Sox, in its entirety.
Adam Ant is very different from the majority of pop stars of his time.
Listening to his hits today, they don’t necessarily sound like they belong in their era. In fact, they don’t sound like they “belong” in any era. There are no outdated synths and there’s none of that cheap guitar sound that plagued so many of the big tracks of the day. In fact, we’d go as far as to say some of it borders on the avant-garde.
Listen to Dog Eat Dog or King of the Wild Frontier. Listen to those tribal drums, the bizarre yelps and yodels, the eccentric arrangements. They’re heavy, and yet it’s all still very accessible and pop-friendly at the same. Occasionally the percussion doesn’t sound all that dissimilar from Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love era.
Like a lot of pop acts of the early 80s, Ulatravox and Billy Idol amongst them, Adam & The Ants began as a punk band, but slowly morphed into a pop act after the punk scene grew stale (yes, although BBC Four documentaries like to tell you that punk was the most important thing that ever happened, it grew stale like everything else). Dirk Wears White Sox was The Ants most “punk” statement. A bizarre extension of the scene which, along with Siouxsie and the Banshees, helped spearhead the burgeoning post-punk movement, whilst keeping one foot firmly in the former camp. It also has the distinction of being the first ever #1 on the UK Independent Albums Chart.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have its drawbacks. Occasionally the lyrics are a little too pretentious, being as bizarre as they are (breathtaking 7-minute opener Cartrouble features the repeated line “you don’t need anything after an ice cream”, for reasons we’ve never been quite able to muster), but they offer an insight into the sometimes disturbed mind of their author more than the majority of his material, with the exception of 2013’s similarly DIY comeback album, Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter.
Despite Adam’s well-publicised personal problems – he has been sectioned under the mental health act several times due to his intense bipolar syndrome and has spoken openly in an attempt to break the taboo associated with the disease – his return to live performance has been met with near-unanimous praise, with Louder Than War going as far as to say “Adam Ant is fronting one of the best rock n roll shows in the UK right now”.
Tickets for the show are available now from the Art’s Club website and are expected to sell out fast.