Glam, hair metal, new romantic… I never got the music of the 80s that seemed to rely more on the band’s wacky or outrageous look, than it did on the music they were making. It always seemed like they were trying to distract me from the fact that the songs were just a bit ordinary. That preconception has been so strong for so long, I’ve never listened to enough of any of those glam, hair metal or new romantic bands to have it proven nor blown out of the water.
But because I love the They Might Be Giants song XTC Versus Adam Ant, and because I recently listened to my first XTC album, I thought I’d give Adam and the Ants crack too. Yep, that’s the kind of serious thought and planning that goes into what I write about here. And it’s that kind of serious thought and planning that lead me to Prince Charming.
Immediately, on Scorpius and Picasso Visita El Planeta De Los Simios, Ant’s voice is exactly how I have always imagined it, based purely on his makeup and costumes. But at the same time, it in on way infuriated me the way I have always assumed it would. His voice lends itself to a certain kind of theatrical pop singing that it turns out I don’t hate.
The titular Prince Charming takes the theatrics even further. It sounds like a song in an 80s pop opera that’s used to introduce the villain. The wailing chants of the backing singers are kind of haunting, but also totally goofy in a really charming way.
The neo western sound of 5 Guns West delivers that same goofy charm. I’m starting to realise that what may have put me off these bands, sight unseen, for so long, is that I thought they were taking themselves and their images too seriously. With Adam and the Ants and Prince Charing, I’m starting to realise that they had more of a sense of humour than I ever gave them credit for.
But even as they were starting to win me over with their theatrics, songs like That Voodoo! and Stand and Deliver make me still prefer things a little more to the point, with less glitter sprinkled on top. The vocals and lyrics are just as camp as anything that comes earlier, but the instruments are a lot more straight forward in their post punk approach. This proof that Adam and the Ants are lot more than their gimmicky costumes and musical quirks makes me wish they’d keep it this simple more often. A wish that is immediately reinforced with the bullshit of Mile High Club, and the absolute atrociousness of Ant Rap.
I don’t know if I’ve ever heard an album so down the middle in its split between good and abysmal. If I’d bought Prince Charming on vinyl in 1981, side A would be worn to baby’s ass like smoothness, while side B would be as pristine as the day it was pressed. It didn’t make me love Adam and the Ants, but it did make me kind of like them. And it made me realise there might be something to this whole new romantic thing.