tue 05/12/2023

Reissue CDs Weekly: Adam and the Ants | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: Adam and the Ants

Reissue CDs Weekly: Adam and the Ants

A splendid but pricey overhaul of ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’

Adam without his Ants: the union of image and music

Adam Ant was one of the few who saw Sex Pistols’ first live show. On 6 November 1975, his band Bazooka Joe was playing Charing Cross Road’s St Martin’s School of Art. They found an uninvited support band had gatecrashed the evening. The impact of the interlopers on the then Stuart Goddard wasn’t instant, but he would go on to form The B-Sides and, then, Adam and the Ants, whose manager became Jordan, who worked at Malcolm McLaren’s King’s Road shop SEX.

Adam was hotwired into what became codified as punk rock. But his music was never defined by templates.

Mainstream impact took a while to come. Kings of the Wild Frontier, issued in November 1980, was the breakthrough. The album was preceded by the single of the same name, which wasn’t a strong seller on its July 1980 release, but did hit two in the charts when re-released early the next year in the wake of the "Antmusic" single's success (that also hit two, kept off the top spot by John Lennon's "Imagine"). The initial sales of "Kings of the Wild Frontier" belie that fact that Adam’s Ants were popular: they had sold out London’s Lyceum in August 1979. Their following was loyal and tribal. Adam knew he could count on his ant people and, after the departure of band members and a short liaison with McLaren (who stole his band and turned them into Bow Wow Wow), he formed a new Ants with Marco Pirroni in early 1980 and signed with CBS, who issued Kings of the Wild Frontier.

Adam and the Ants Kings Of The Wild FrontierThe history is fascinating and can be endlessly examined,  but two interconnected elements are paramount: the union of image and music. Adam knew (and still knows) that the music must be accompanied by an inseparable identity. And this knowledge guides the reissue of Kings of the Wild Frontier. He has been integral to the project, guaranteeing this is no ordinary reissue. There is a no-frills 2CD digipack version, but the real deal is the so-called Super Deluxe edition. At £80, it is an expensive but fine example of how to repackage a single album with style.

Instead of bulking the album out with a raft of inessential remixes or extended versions (Kings of the Wild Frontier was originally issued just before this marketing strategy got out of hand) across two CDs there is the album, previously unheard bonus tracks, the relevant B-sides and non-album tracks, and a previously unissued live show. A DVD includes a different contemporaneous concert, promo videos and TV appearances. One glitch with the latter: a run-through of "Dog Eat Dog" is seen twice, credited as both a promo and as a Top of the Pops appearance – it looks to be the second. The album is also included on coloured vinyl. Adam has written the text for the accompanying LP-sized book. Masses of memorabilia is reproduced: fan club material, stickers and more, within an embossed envelope. There is a reprint of Catalogue (which accompanied the original album; it is indistinguishable from an original copy) and a massive poster. All within a shiny gold box (pictured below left: its contents). Obviously, this is not for neophytes but for the deep-walleted it is a splendid thing.

Adam and the Ants Kings Of The Wild Frontier Super Deluxe editionAdam had a direct hands-on input into the remastering and this, for the music inclined, is where the reissue is most striking. Seconds into the album’s opening track “Dog Eat Dog” it becomes clear that this and the rest of Kings of the Wild Frontier sounds different to how it did originally. There has clearly been no remixing – and there was nothing muddy or untoward about the original album – but the song leaps out of the speakers and sounds more dynamic and full than ever. The sonic overhaul has brought new life to the familiar.

The text in the book is frank, good-humoured and illuminating. Adam’s passages on parting ways with McLaren are trenchant and his affection for the period is clear. He does, however, dodge why bassist Kevin Mooney left the band. The song-by-song analysis is invaluable. All in all, this release begs the question of why can’t all major label reissues be this conscientious?

If an entry point is needed, head straight to the DVD to see Adam balancing his (albeit esoteric) pop approach with the harder-edged material he had always traded in. Footage of “an intense Physical (You’re so)” from Manchester is terrific, but powerful performances of “Ants Invasion” and the Link Wray-influenced “Killer in the Home” from the Old Grey Whistle Test in January 1981 capture the band at its peak. Soon afterwards, the new pop was ushered in. Adam and the Ants paved the way for bands like Culture Club and Duran Duran to become huge. But neither shared Adam and Pirroni's musical smarts and sense of adventure. Kings of the Wild Frontier had shown it was possible to be massively popular without resorting to musical safety.


The picture you have, showing the contents of the super box set, shows a gold and a black vinyl. Did your box set have both?

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