Adam Ant’s last studio album release was Wonderful back in 1995. For the past three or so years, he has talked about releasing a new one. I have to admit to totally disbelieving this fable as nothing more than wishful thinking on his part. So many promised projects over the years had made me rather pessimistic. I’ll have a slice of humble pie now please.
Adam Ant Is The Blueback Hussar In Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter was released on Adam’s own label on January 21st 2013 in the UK, and a day later in the US and Canada. 17 tracks, spread across two slabs of good old fashioned vinyl, although crammed together on one record for North America. It entered the UK album chart at #25 and at #3 in the UK alternative album chart on January 27th.
The album has had its fair share of good reviews along with its critics. So how does it square up? It’s time to take it apart, track by track, and see what Adam Ant has put together for his nest of loyal Ant fans.
My vinyl copies had yet to arrive from the UK and the US, so I could only go by the CD copies at this time. The first noticeable thing after taking the album out of the envelope was the bulging front cover where the booklet is too thick for the jewel case. There are some excellent photos of Adam inside, along with all the lyrics.
The front and back images are amazing paintings by Mary Jane Ansell. If you’ve seen the Cool Zombie video, you’ll notice that same model mouthing the “come closer” lyrics. Talking of which, let’s journey through the album, beginning with that track.
01 Cool Zombie [03:16]
This was released as a single via iTunes in late October 2012 (a Zombie/Hallowe’en connection anyone?), and on 7” vinyl a month later. The video launch came much later and it all failed to come together at the same time to make any real impact as a single release.
The original version of this track ran for almost four and a half minutes and has obviously been re-worked for its single and album releases. In that original, Adam’s high backing vocals were drowning out his lead vocal, so full marks to whoever re-mixed this edit. There’s a great low, zombie-esque, backing vocal that is more prominent on the original that is almost lost on this version.
The song has a gentle nod to Beck’s “Loser”, and to Johnny Jenkins’ “Walk On Gilded Splinters” (which contains the line “je suis le grand zombie”). Beck sampled the drums from that track for Loser, as did I for my Cool Zombie remixes.
This song has really grown on me, and I can’t stop singing the “well?”, “this goes out to Ronnie B” and “come closer” parts. The “now-na-now-na-now…” backing vocal is rather over-used, but that seems to be the norm with backing vocals on this release.
02 Stay In The Game [03:38]
This intro reminds me of a mixture “Animals & Men” and “Lou” (both tracks from Adam’s punk days). The track itself would not sound out of place on an Elastica album and I could imagine Justine Frischmann doing a fantastic version of this. There’s some Pirroni-esque twangy guitar in here, but lacks his usual warmth. He’s not credited on this track, but it has that feel. Vocally more rehearsed than some of this album’s other tracks, and not a bad start so far.
UPDATE, my dear wife, Texi, said the intro to this track reminded her of a track by The Wolfmen (Marco Pirroni’s current group). Sure enough, as she played Needle In The Camel’s Eye, it became apparent that Stay In The Game was a slowed down version of Marco’s guitar parts. This resulted in a Carty mash-up of the two tracks, which can be downloaded from here (for now).
03 Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter. [04:36]
This track has really grown on me due to its addictive rhythm. The verses are delivered in a way that is not too distant from a track by Nasty Rox Inc. called Escape From New York. The production is a little lacklustre and has way too much compression, which is a pity as the strings, drums and guitar licks are simply divine. This is crying out to be re-worked. If only the rest of the album were this good!
04 Vince Taylor [03:48]
This is the only new track from his new project he played live prior to Cool Zombie’s release, which was very well received. I recommend checking out the G-Live performance of this and substituting for this album version, as Adam’s vocal delivery in the studio is just awful, and deeply disappointing. The actual recording of the vocal is hardly a quality one, sounding muffled in places and as if a cheap microphone was used. Adam’s vocal as the song ends is just too painful to listen. A great song, but sadly it only gets worse from here on.
05 Valentines [05:42]
Initially called Valentine’s Day, musically, this is similar to Vampires on Wonderful. Vocally, this is seriously under-rehearsed. Adam’s backing vocals really seem to have no clue which key he’s in. This is truly abysmal. The vocals are, once again, muffled and messy and it’s like this for almost six minutes. Adam’s demos for the Wonderful album (which was then called Slapdash Eden) are of a much better standard than this. I have to keep reminding myself that obviously Adam is happy with this. He has sat on these recordings for over two years without even touching them for this release. The Quality Department needs firing.
06 Darlin’ Boy [02:33]
The first track to feature a performance credit for Marco Pirroni. But don’t let that suck you into a false sense of security that this is anything close to what the dynamic duo have delivered to us before. The guitar sounds as if it’s a low bitrate mp3 recording. Yet even more intrusive backing vocals and muffled main vox. This piss-poor sound production is something you’d expect on the bonus tracks of the deluxe edition, to be released in 2023 (Actually, it would be deluxe if they removed tracks from it, as opposed to adding them).
07 Dirty Beast [03:41]
This is more like it. A half decent song at last. It’s a pity that the start of the track begins with, what sounds like, the end of the song that was initially before it. And to make matters worse, it even ends with someone counting in the next track on the tape. The song sounds unfinished, and again, Adam’s vocals are recorded and delivered in a style that seems to be the norm on this album…demotic, which is a word I have just invented. No offence to the Greeks.
08 punkyoungirl [05:29]
A few years ago, Adam promoted this as his new single, which resulted in a play on Richard Bacon’s radio show on XFM. The station (or the fan who recorded it) also managed to play Kings Of The Wild Frontier at the same time, which I failed to notice when I knocked out a remix of it. Gladly this version is clear of any interruptions. Which is a pity, as I’d rather hear Kings instead of what this song becomes at the 02:58 mark. It is apparent that Adam cannot sing in tune nor hit the high notes. There is a good song just bursting to get out here, but is trapped inside this demo. (Did someone forget to fade this out?)
09 Sausage [03:41]
This song was initially called “Call Me Sausage” and recorded just after the Wonderful album in 1995. Adam wanted this track released as his next single, and that version is much better than this re-recording. There is a seriously bad edit at the 01:49 part, right before the instrumental break. Once again, Adam’s vocal delivery, especially the high backing vocals just don’t sit right in this mix. I had expected a finished version of this song to be something special. I am still waiting for a finished version…of this album.
10 Cradle Your Hatred [04:58]
I’ll assume by now, that the Ant fans who see nothing wrong with these recordings have quit reading this review by now. (And believe me, they really do exist). Which is a pity, as this is the best track on the album! Cradle Your Hatred is full of emotion, and you can clearly hear that in Adam’s voice. Yes, it’s not his best performance, but this is fantastic. A truly brilliant piece of writing and should be the next single. But not as it is here. Please, if this is ever to be the next single, can the multi-track be handed to a producer who would make it something extra special?
11 hardmentoughblokes [03:51]
This was to have been the b-side to punkyoungirl, had it been released, and also gained an airing on XFM (albeit with its profanities censored). A Marco driven punky stomper, which has promise, but gets broken with poorly recorded vocals. The ending could have done with a small edit, but it was obviously meant to be this raw, right?
12 Shrink [03:50]
The second best track on the album. In fact, there are days when I like this better than Cradle Your Hatred. This is the direction Adam needs to be going in. More of this Nine Inch Nails style approach will do nicely please. Sheer class, and with a little polish, could even be worthy of a single release. You can feel Adam’s pain in that awesome chorus. Superb!
13 Vivienne’s Tears [03:28]
This would fit perfectly on Wonderful, or more to the point, Slapdash Eden (the demos for that album). Dedicated to Vivienne Westwood, it’s quite a good song, but, as we seem to be finding with most of this album’s tracks, it sounds like a demo. It seems OK for Adam to use demos for a finished album, and yet he blocks the release of his pre-Dirk demos? Baffling.
14 Who’s A Goofy Bunny? [05:46]
This song appears as a demo on the remastered version of the Prince Charming album (as Who’s A Goofy Bunny Then?), which was then transformed into Libertine on Adam’s Strip album. This version was recorded the day after attending Malcolm McLaren’s funeral and presents a slightly different take on the song. Adam once told me in an interview that he would have left the remastered albums with their original tracks only, and with no demos. It seems he has changed his mind.
15 How Can I Miss You? [03:33]
A song typical of the spaghetti western style tracks we’re used to from Adam. Great as an instrumental, but only because Adam’s vocal ruins this! Don’t get me wrong, as a song, this would be fantastic…if re-recorded and/or re-produced. I’m not sure about that scratching on the drum loop. It’s a common sound effect on most keyboards and hardly original, but on the whole, it’s not that bad really.
16 Bulls**t [03:23]
An excellent song and one of the album’s few highlights! Let down by Adam’s wailing backing, but that rhythm is amazing! Sits neatly alongside Shrink. In fact, THIS is what this album should have sounded like. Ballsy, energetic, and proves Adam still has the ability to write great songs. If only his high standards on stage transferred to him in the studio.
17 How Can I Say I Miss You? (Reprise)
Normally, I would view this as an album filler, as it’s just an instrumental version of track 15. But there are so many painfully poor recordings on this album that this rises above them. It’s even better without his vocal, even though it sounds distorted. At least the album ends on a positive note.
Save your money. Just download a few of the tracks from Amazon. Adam has released a potentially good 6 track album, and spoilt it with almost a dozen tracks of sub-standard recordings which is the worst produced album he has ever made. If you’re a collector, buy the UK and US vinyl editions, but leave them sealed. Do not waste your money on the CD versions from other countries, as they are all identical. Amazon in Canada and the US state the CD’s are on different labels. This is false. I sent all of mine back for a refund.