Crate Skimmers #1 Adam and The Ants’s Kings of the Wild Frontier

With my vinyl collection shedding some weight through me reselling/returning it to the thrift stores last year I thought it would be a fun idea to do some album spotlights about, well, the stuff I own. Which is, well, a weird collection. I don’t own a lot of my favorite records because, well, the rules don’t apply to me. What are the rules?:

*15 Euros per single is the max (around $18/£13), 30 for double LP’s. There’s a €2 leeway for both but, except for really special stuff which happened like 10 times in my collection, it all falls under here.
*Try to get the records at distro’s (online, mostly one person stores), thrift stores, local stores and most of all touring musicians .
*Don’t care about special editions, color vinyls or first prints. A record is a record, even if I own a re-press. Could not care less.

Even through the years without spending that much, boy it’s still a lot. I’ve got a nice selection on vinyl as weird and kitschy as my taste itself. But let’s dive in; the idea is to go through my record collection at random with me picking a different record each time and writing a bit about it. These will possibly be a lot more personal and less straight reviews of records but whatever. These will be as short or long as I want them to be and quite freewheeling in tone. So off to the races.

#1 Adam & The Ants-Kings of the Wild Frontier

Owned since: 2005-ish, this is I think one of the first albums I ever bought on vinyl
Genre: Pop music by the way of (post-)punk
Where I bought it: A thrift store for 20 cents
Year: 1980
Pressing: CBS Holland

Where to even start with this. Adam and the Ants were an oddity in the 80s pop field, but also fit in perfectly with the weird offspring of punk that formed more poppy bands. Loads of these bands picked up (post)-punk’s nervous guitar work and, in The Ants case, influences from African music which they formed into mostly one-hit wonders that honestly are still fresh today. But of the bunch Adam and The Ants were for sure the biggest for a short while.

Adam Ant was a pretty early sight in the British punk scene, his old band Bazooka Joe headlined the first show the Sex Pistols ever played. He also appeared in Derek Jarman’s bizarre but seminal punk movie Jubilee, showcasing a really early version of the Ants which soon after that formed under that name. Their debut Dirk Wears White Sox is a pretty big whos’s who of the English post-punk scene and fits in perfectly with all the stuff coming out of the time. I own a copy of that so it’s getting coverage later, but after that most of the band left to form Bow Wow Wow. Kings is really the first Ants in their most famous style record.

It honestly isn’t that far apart from their debut but it just sports a lot stronger song writing, thanks to guitarist Marco Pirroni, who played in the earliest version Siouxsie and the Banshees with Sid Vicious, and the new two drummer line-up which gave the band their well known tribal pop music beat. Honestly, it’s a great record where Adam (and The Ants) plays up their new persona of new romantic swashbuckler(s) and made himself a sex icon pop star for the upcoming years. It just so brilliantly walks the line between being pure pop music and the whole post-punk crowd, with their later record going a lot more pop, but the title track and Don’t Be Square (Be There) are must haves for every post-punk dance night if you’re not a massive snob.

Maybe even better but my copy includes the Adam and The Ants catalogue still, the weird booklet/fan letter that showcases how great The Ants are with a bit written by Pete Scott. It only just covers Dirk and the White Sox Ants mostly, which is funny to see with the band looking fairly normal before they went full on new romantic highwayman. It’s honestly pretty great, it includes these great black and white live shots of the band in several places and also what they like. A selection (they include a lot of likes) of it is noted below here.

Adam Ant (vocals): Clint Eastwood, Allen Jones, Dirk Borgarde, Dave Berry, Sex Pistols(circa 76), Lenny Bruce, Jordan(the famous Malcom McLaran scenesters who is also in Jarman’s Jubilee) and early roxy music

Marco Pirroni (guitar): Frank Sinatra, Mick Ronson, Eno(before he got arty), Screaming Lord Sutch, Sex Pistols(circa 76), Alvin Stardust, Beatles in Leather(In Hamburg), Sharon Tate, Shocking Pink, Link Wray

Terry Lee Miall (Drums): Roxy music, Loud Reed, David Bowie 72-76, Stanley Clarke, Beatles, Sex Pistols

Merrick (Drums): Tea, Chocolates, Tv Documentaries, Spike Milligan, Young Special Brew, Hot baths on Tour, Miles Davis, Airports

Kevin Mooney (Bass): Lenny Bruce, Sex Pistols, Roxy Music and ‘lots of other things’

It’s interesting to see how style based they were, the magazine includes a ton of photos of the band a bit before Kings and it still has them in their 50’s greasers by the way of punk clothes. Which is a great look. I own Dirk so it will get covered some day, but it also shows a photo of Ant in the primitive make-up that they started to use from this album. Just pure boy band unity in clothing as a brand, it’s legit a great way to handle a band which has teenage heartthrob Ant as its leader.

Look at how throwback it looks, you can even write to the fanclub

So let’s break it down track for track then:

Dog Eat Dog
Absolute perfect opener with its galloping drums intro and Pirroni’s sparse delay drenched guitar intercutting them to make it feel less empty. Recalls heavily the rockabilly of the 50’s, even more with Ant’s call and response kind of lyrics and the oooooh chorus that make this nearly impossible for me to remain seated while listening to.

Antmusic keeps the trend growing but hangs a lot more to 70s glam-rock, you can pretty much taste the Slade and Bowie around Aladdin Sadin in this. A Lot of big power chords, a chorus that goes ho-ho-ho in place of oooh. Good stuff.

Feed Me to the Lions
By far one of the more post-punky tracks on here and my least favorite, also. A bit of a dirge which replaces the beat of the first two songs for a kind of ten in a dozen post-punk stomp that really doesn’t gel that well here with this production and Ant’s monotone vocals. An awkward chorus doesn’t help either. The first record has tons of these songs, just with a lot more energy behind them which it really lacks here.

Los Rancheros
Ant styled himself and the band a bit after Zapatistas, the Mexican revolutionary group led by Emiliano Zapata Salazar, but also threw in references from Hollywood’s westerns, swashbucklers and Louis XIV. An odd mishmash that works through how over the top it is and how invested the band was in portraying these characters. The chorus of this song goes about screaming Clint Eastwood’s name and includes a reference to a few dollars more to start with. Mostly led by a kind of jittery western guitar, it is a weird little song that fits in here perfectly.

Ants Invasion
Another ant themed song, how original. Ants Invasion is the band’s better attempt at a post-punk song with its screeching alarm guitar and crunchy bass. It just feels like a lot of stuff coming out at the time, which is not a dig at it but it’s also by far not one of the stronger tracks on here. The weird XTC like break in this is great still.

Killer in the Home
A song about, well, a killer in the home with some near-Peter Gun Theme guitar work in there and a very monotone bassline. Again, a reference to Native American culture with Geronimo and it seems to be about mostly fighting wars. It’s a bit of a mess and one of the weaker efforts on here.

Kings of the Wild Frontier
Ah yes, the title track and by far the most poppy track on here. Even more heavily indebted to rockabilly, a bloody great song to this day. Just drums, a bouncy bass and some of the best call-and-response stuff the band ever did, with Ant delivering some of his best vocal stuff here (the long hold on suffeeeeeeering is absolutely perfect) and the slow lead in to the mostly drum focused chorus is so well done. Less is more is for sure the case here.

The Magnificent Five
And yes this was released in the same year as the Clash song. It’s mostly a song about the Ants forming and believing in being hot and their own kind of music. It includes some near metal guitar stuff that quickly goes into a poppy post-chorus.

Don’t Be Square (Be There)
Disco beats galore on this one and it’s not a bad fit at all. Just full-on danceable stuff with good dumb lyrics, this is a delight of a little song with some tremendous bass stuff on it.

Jolly Roger
Beside robbing people in the countryside the band also seems to be pirates with this song about hoisting the pirate flag, which includes some tremendous chanty stuff and minimal backing which for sure helps to give this a big pirate vibe. Argh.

Making History
Oh hey a song that references murdering kids, that is a uhm thing. Mostly about the endless fights between the bad and good guys, it’s a nifty little drum led number that would’ve made a good single of the album.

The Human Being
This is pretty close to a Siouxsie & The Banshees song, down to the crunchy bass (the whole of Claps Hands comes to mind a lot) and guitar that is pretty close to sounding like a piano in spots. A bit of a monotone march to the end, but a fitting ending for this album with its slow fade out ending being legit a neat little gimmick.

Overall, this is a really solid slice of the weird intersection between the punk outwash and pop music, and for sure hangs more to post-punk than it does to pop. Its follow up, Prince Charming, jumped to full on pop and suffered a bit for it. I think that while it has quite a few weak spots, it’s overall a pretty unique and original solid record well worth everyone’s time. Even more because you can easily grab up a copy of this for next to nothing. Or just grab the Antmusic and Wild Frontier 7 inch if a whole album of drums and call-and-response lyrics is a bit too much for you.