Adam & the Ants – Kings of the Wild Frontier (review)

Adam and the Ants – Kings of the Wild Frontier (Sony Music) review

Very few albums from the Eighties are still this potent

It’s very possible that Adam and the Ants actually came from outer space – because nothing on Kings of the Wild Frontier sounds like anything that came before or after it.  Post punk attitude melded to tribal drums and spaghetti westerns, augmented by lyrics about ants invading the Earth!  This recipe should’ve failed, yet it’s played with such conviction – it becomes infectious.

The original album opens with “Dog Eat Dog” – the chanting and pounding drums mask the fact that it’s a pretty catchy song with a great chorus.  “Antmusic” is fueled by clever drumstick percussion, and was the first big MTV hit for the band in the States.

Another aspect in the album’s success is its diversity: the Duane Eddy-twang-inspired guitar of “Los Rancheros,” is followed by the dark “Ants Invasion,” which has a cascading guitar line that gives the song an ominous feel.

“Kings of the Wild Frontier” is a thing of absolute wonder.  It sounds like 100 people playing drums, and the controlled feedback squeals of Marco Pirroni make you forget he’s playing a guitar.

“Magnificent Five” has a jangly verse, conflicting with a raw guitar-led chorus.  “Don’t Be Square (Be There)” has a funk feel that Duran Duran may have stolen for “Girls on Film.”

The goofy, pirate-themed “Jolly Roger,” with the chorus “it’s your money that we want / and your money we shall have,” certainly pushes things into the absurd.  The original record closes with “The Human Beings,” featuring some impressive work from bassist Kevin Mooney.

The original US album had a slightly different tracklist, and those tracks, “Press Darlings” and “Physical (You’re So)” are included as well, although they are less polished in their sound. Four demos of songs that made it on the the album round out disc one, showing these songs in their infancy – nowhere near as good as their final product counterparts.

Disc two is actually even better – a 17-song incendiary live set from Chicago in April of 1981 proves that the band was just as good in person (the drumming is just mind-blowing).  But – make sure you stick around to near the end – “A.N.T.S.” is a rewrite of the Village People’s “YMCA” which is a hoot.  The “rough cut” version of “Antmusic” contains alternate lyrics.

The liner notes are particularly good, because they’re penned by Adam Ant himself, who is surprisingly candid about his band’s history, giving insight to each track on the album.

So much Eighties music today sounds dated because it was dominated by primitive synthesizers and artificial percussion.  Kings of the Wild Frontier succeeds on sheer visceral force.  It holds up well because it’s basically a guitar and drums album played with a wreckless abandon by guys that would surely have kicked your ass if you didn’t like their music.   –Tony Peters