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Adam & The Antz - Dirk Wears White Sox (Do It)
by Phil 'Young Runcornian' Thornton
OK, I�m coming out of the closet. I fuckin� loved Adam & The Antz. I was a fuckin� Antperson and I�m not ashamed to say it. I didn�t only love them during their S&M fixated art-punk days, I loved em in their comedy Injun/Regency fop/Pirate/Highwayman era too. The day Kings Of The Wild Frontier was released and I went straight out and bought it and y�know what, I still think it�s a boss LP despite its tedious and cliched �native American� philosophical insights. My ma even bought me a detachable feather for my zip pants for Christmas which I proudly wore to the youthy as I bounced about to Dog Eat Dog. So what ya wanna make o�that? OK, once Adam did Prince Charming and Stand & Deliver, then and only then, did I decide that maybe being a self-confessed Antperson wasn�t the type of thing that win me admiration or indeed sexual favours with Antwomen. So Kings got lashed along with Cartrouble (ace!), Xerox (acer!) and Young Parisians (utter fuckin� rubbish) and all my other Antz records.
I held onto Dirk Wears White Sox however because it was and still is one of the best records to come out of that confused post-punk aftermath, when bands didn�t really know which route to travel. Some went hardcore, some went goth, others went funky and some went pop. Adam went arty perhaps because punk was after all, mainly an art school movement to begin with. Dirk was released in 1979 and I bought my copy from a disgruntled older punk who deigned that �it wasn�t punk enough� for his philistine tastes. I loved everything about the LP; its sleeve design, its typography, its lyrics and of course the music. As a four piece unit, Ant on vocals, piano, guitar and harp, David Barbe�s drill-fast drumming, Matthew Ashman�s inventive guitar and Andrew Warren�s solid and funky bass, the Antz were a powerfully tight unit.
With Adam himself on production duties, the atmosphere alternates between dark, abstract mood pieces such as Nine Plan Failed, Never Trust A Man (With Egg On His Face) and the utterly fantastic Tabletalk -with its mesmerising �love-a-love-love-yeah-yeah� coda - and furiously funky tunes like Digital Tenderness and Day I Met God. The subject matter of Adam�s often pretentious yet always entertaining lyrics got into (Car) trouble with some critics, alleging that young Stuart Goddard was a crypto-fascist. His homage to the Italian Futurists on Animals & Men and the sneering digs at �handicapped� probably didn�t do him any favours. Yet, the astonishing range of subjects Adam chose to confront, from the death of John F. Kennedy on Catholic Day to technological dependency on Cartrouble Pt2, to the oral pleasuring of Roman Centurions on Cleopatra to the deranged treaties on mental illness on Nine Plan Failed and organised religion on Day I Met God, this is an LP that is as provocative yet far more thoughtful and intelligent than most standard �punk� records.
The beauty of Dirk Wears White Sox is that it stands up to scrutiny almost 30 years after its release and I still regularly give it an outing on its original vinyl, scratched to fuck though it is. A good test of a great LP is that you realise how good some of the tracks are that you previously ignored or overlooked. In my case, I left the slower tunes alone, preferring the faster, punkier, funkier numbers. Tabletalk being a case in point. I tended to dismiss this altogether, mainly due to its lethargic groove and obtuse lyrics �I said to Gilly (pronounced Gelly) how do you do Tabletalk?� Give me a fucking break Adam? I wanted more lines about the size of God�s knob and Cleo�s wide mouth. But I was 15 back then.
The Antz had a lot going for them. Musically they were miles ahead of most of their contemporaries, they had perhaps the best looking front man of the punk era in Adam and their image as pervy fetishists provided some great t-shirt designs such as the one of the rope tied, stiletto heeled lady�s leg that I bought from Close Encounters in St John�s Market. The Antz were hip daddio and no mistake. But then, Malcolm McLaren poked his nose in and enticed Barbe, Ashman and Warren�s replacement (he left to form The Monochrome Set) Leigh Gorman away to form the short-lived if brilliant, Bow Wow Wow. Adam formed his Antz Mk II with Marco Pironi and assorted whoppers as he ditched the existentialist theorising for the all out pop onslaught that ensured Adam�s fame and eventual mental collapse.
Adam moved with the times and the early 80s was no place for esoteric fetish-funk, although Frankie were just around the corner. Adam obviously wanted to be far more than just another post-punk cult act, he wanted to be on the cover of Smash Hits not Skin2.
Dirk Wears White Sox wore its decadence on its sleeve. The title itself alluded to Dirk Bogarde�s sly sexual menace and the moody, black and white ghostly cover hinted at the often disturbing music contained within. I was so obsessed with the record that I�d copy the Do It record logo over and over and draw the stark inner sleeve photos of Adam and Mathew Ashman on my school books. I also got into Bow Wow Wow, following the former Antz in their new career as back-up hacks for McLaren�s latest wheeze; a cassette-only-format-junglepop-meets-underage sex-scam. C30, C60, C90, Go! Was a great tune as was Go Wild In The Jungle but the talents of Barbe, Ashman and Warren were never utilised. The band became more about Annabella Lwin�s undoubted beauty and McLaren�s own media manipulation than the actual music. However, Dave Barbarossa/Barbe remains one of the great drummers in my opinion and it was sad to see Mathew Ashman die prematurely in 95. He was a gifted guitarist who held the original Antz sound together.
Although some of the themes and the slightly unsavoury tone of Adam�s nihilistic outlook on life is not to everyone�s taste, Dirk remains a startlingly modern statement of intent from a band breaking free from the primitive confines of punk orthodoxy. Now here did I put that clip-on feather?
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