Throughout his career, the always-flamboyant Adam Ant has tried out a number of styles—both with his music and fashion choices. Collecting each and every dabbling under the ideological umbrella of “Antmusic,” he’s veered as far and wide as cabaret, tribal music, punk rock, rockabilly, and pop while appearing like a Native American swashbuckler. And though on this side of the pond the British Ant is known mostly as a one-hit ’80s wonder for “Goody Two Shoes,” elsewhere he’s cultivated a following of devotees who seemingly have taken his artistic liberties in stride.
When his original group of Ants abandoned him after their debut, Dirk Wears White Sox, to team up with Malcolm McLaren and form Bow Wow Wow, Adam recruited a new band to take in a new direction, which was probably a wise move given Dirk’s stunted take on post-punk. Teaming with guitarist Marco Pirroni, who previously played in the very short-lived line-up of Siouxsie and the Banshees that included Sid Vicious on drums, as well as The Models and Rema-Rema, Ant created what is arguably one of the highlights of his discography, Kings of the Wild Frontier.
Recorded in August 1980, Kings is a swaggering mix of everything that came before it and signaled the coming era of new wave sounds that channeled punk’s rebellious spirit into brightly hued pop. The Ants now included not one but two drummers, and it’s that rhythmic foundation that is at the center of this record. With Pirroni playing a mix of surf hooks and glamtastic riffs overtop, the end result was funnily enough not all that dissimilar from what Ant’s former collaborators ended up creating in Bow Wow Wow. But Ant’s version was far more eclectic. The opening “Dog Eat Dog” may start off resembling “C30 C60 C90 Go!” but Ant and his new cohorts quickly lay down a manifesto of sorts between Pirroni’s churning guitar work. That dogma is expanded upon in greater detail on the subsequent “Antmusic,” wherein Ant commands the listener to unplug the jukebox.
Throughout the remainder of the album, it is obvious that Ant was brimming with ideas. One can hear his cup runneth over as he veers between the spaghetti Western of “Los Rancheros” and the vampy “Ants Invasion.” On “Killer in the Home,” he and Pirroni team for a song that matches surf twang to lyrics likening the singer to a Native American warrior. That theme is continued on the title track, with Ant proffering, “Antpeople are the warriors.” With a dual-drum attack, it is a convincing call-to-arms.
Kings sounds like no other record ever made, with Ant distinguishing himself from his peers also vying for stardom in the post-punk world. Nonetheless, it’s been perhaps overlooked, so it makes sense that Legacy Recordings is reissuing the record on vinyl and deluxe CD editions, replete with new notes and remastering by Ant himself. Once punk had pushed past the old guard’s notions of rock music, anything was possible, and Kings is living proof of that. Though Ant’s music eventually suffered for his shtick, here he was in top form, and aided by the remastering, Kings bristles with the excitement that fueled its creation.