1980, Music

Kings of the Wild Frontier (1980) Adam and the Ants

British new wave is nearly always less musically interesting and risky than American new wave. There are many reasons for that and I’m not going to go into them here. I just wanted to mention it because often a lot what passes for “innovation” in British new wave is attitude.

The good news is that this record has some pretty good songs. I’m basically obvious to Adam Ant – I think his music really didn’t transcend until I was old enough, unlike some of his contemporaries – so I had no idea he was so talented melodically. The songs aren’t all up to the same standard, but there is definitely a fair amount of catchy material here.

The real reason to listen to the record is the arrangements: super percussion-heavy, vaguely punky pop rock . Occasionally the songwriting gets quirky enough to actually qualify as what I think of as “new wave” but, usually, it’s the arrangements that are the reason this is labeled new wave. There were few other bands in the UK at the time with this much percussion on their records. (As an aside: I have never heard the debut but it’s a testament to the talent involved that an entirely new band made this record. They definitely don’t sound like they were just assembled to make this record because someone stole the previous band away from the front-man.)

The production is pretty decent. The mix is a little quirky but usually emphasizes the wright things. And the presence of so much organic percussion ensures that the record doesn’t sound too 1980.

My biggest quibbles really are that the record’s reputation is outsized for what it actually is and that the arrangements are often a substitute for actually quirky songs. (You can write all the quirky lyrics you want, that doesn’t make the music quirky.) But it’s pretty good. Certainly better than I was expecting.

7/10

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