Album Reviews

Adam and The Ants

Kings of the Wild Frontier (Deluxe Edition)

Artist:     Adam and The Ants

Album:     Kings of the Wild Frontier (Deluxe Edition)

Label:     Legacy

Release Date:     06/03/2016

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Almost all the life had been drained from the U.K.’s punk rock scene by late 1980. Adam and the Ants, version 2.0, took it upon themselves to – in Ant’s own words – bring “colour, dash and fire… heroism” to a drab, dreary movement plagued by violence and sheer boredom.

Anything but dull, and completely deserving of its lavish, new reissue treatment, Kings of the Wild Frontier broke new ground and had a ball doing it. Splashed across fascinating and insightful liner notes written by Ant – including a frank song-by-song assessment – is the whole crazy story, enhanced with vintage images of Ant and company behind the scenes and onstage. The quote above is just a sample of its linguistic fireworks.

The album itself is even more vibrant and daring, created in the aftermath of Ant’s backing band being shanghaied by producer Malcolm McLaren to form Bow Wow Wow in the months following the release of 1979’s Dirk Wears White Sox. Arriving in November of 1980, Kings of the Wild Frontier yielded strange, but utterly compelling, pop fruit, such as “Making History,” “Feed Me to the Lions” and “The Human Beings” – the latter a chanted, hypnotic indictment of the shabby treatment received by Native Americans in their very own homeland. Introducing the wildly infectious “Burundi beat” and a vast array of tribal percussive textures, Kings of the Wild Frontier was, and still is, a sexy, swashbuckling sonic adventure, a frenzy of charismatic whoops, yodels, shouts and cheers toying with burbling, bounding bass lines and razor-wire guitar musings.

Sparks of unbridled creativity fly from the rattling, syncopated stabs of “Antmusic,” the campy panache of “Los Rancheros” and “Jolly Roger,” the disco-driven march of “Don’t Be Square (Be There)” and the ominous, post-punk rumble of a rather silly “Ants Invasion.” And the remastering job done on the original album, the centerpiece of this fully-loaded repackaging, makes it sound as uniquely fresh and vital as ever – four loose, stripped-down and previously unreleased KPM Studio demos and a trio of B-sides, highlighted by the sinister, sneering “Pop Darlings” and the catchy, Ramones-like buzz saw “Physical (You’re So),” adding more thrills.

To get a sense of how material from the LP translated to a live setting, there’s a second disc comprising a raw, sweaty 1981 concert from Chicago’s Park West Club that, for all of its muffled imperfections and lulls, is absolutely electric and boasts plenty of aggressive, boisterous swagger – songs like the tumbling “Dog Eat Dog” and the noisy “Killer in the Home” benefitting greatly from claustrophobic environs. Also available is a special super deluxe version that’s even more expansive, adding a DVD bursting at the seams with essential videos and concert footage. This whole celebration is worthy of Kings.

– Peter Lindblad

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