Angels And Insects

Key works of the first New Pop star of the '80s remastered. Must be learnt by heart

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How many pop stars would be cheeky and intelligent enough to incorporate quotes from Joe Orton and Nietzsche in the same song (“The Magnificent Five”)? How many would dare to juxtapose Sartre quotations?in French?with “knock it on the head and go for a curry”? (“Ant Rap,” a Top 3 hit over Christmas 1981 which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on PiL’s Flowers Of Romance?). Adam Ant?and his right-hand man Marco Pirroni?did it, over and over again, throughout the early 1980s, virtually paving the way for post-punk to be supplanted by New Pop.

How? It was partly inspired by revenge?Adam having seen his original band stolen by Malcolm McLaren to form Bow Wow Wow, he and Pirroni decided to outdo McLaren at his own game, to marry the Burundi beat/tribal warpaint concept with whatever came to hand.

Thus Kings Of The Wild Frontier was 1980’s equivalent of The Avalanches’ Since I Left You?riffs and philosophies plundered from everywhere to form an unrepeatable fusion of Duane Eddy/Keith Levene guitars (check the appropriation of Link Wray’s “Rumble” for “Killer In The Home”), Morricone echoing chants and John Barry chord sequences. “Dog Eat Dog” was as startling and untraceable a reinvention of pop as “Virginia Plain” had been eight years previously. And “Antmusic” was the first anti-rockist pop single (“Rock music’s lost its taste!”).

By 1981, Adam was a superstar, but criticisms of going soft seem severely out of place?”Prince Charming” really is the strangest of No 1s, like Wire playing “Catch A Falling Star”, while the accompanying album saw the Ants run the gamut from blaxploitation themes (“Scorpios”) to early post-rock (“S.E.X.”). And 1982 hits like “Friend Or Foe” or “Desperate But Not Serious” come across like a post-punk Dexys?blaring horns shadowing troubled lyrics.

Strangely, however, the one album in this collection which sounds as though it was made last week is 1979’s pre-fame Dirk Wears White Sox, recorded with the original Ants?a brilliant fusion of all the poppier post-punk trends of the time which has aged incredibly well, including two stunning singles in “Cartrouble” and “Xerox,” as well as quoting from Marinetti (“Animals & Men”) four years before The Art Of Noise. Franz Ferdinand, for one, definitely started here, and so should you.


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