In a musical world of Auto-Tune expectancy, Adam Ant’s latest is as far from this device as a slow train starting a very long journey to AT but already broken down. That’s its first refreshing quality. A second is the ramshackle and/or eclectic content – depending on your aural leanings – and a first listen is going to be the special experience because you genuinely can’t be sure of what will be coming next.
The album opens on single release Cool Zombie with blues slide guitar and signature Adam howl in the background, an engaging marriage of unexpected/expected sounds. Somewhere also in the background is the singular vocal accompaniment that loudly Ohs its varying tones above this and most songs on the album in varying degrees of untunefulness. The next two songs are quite neutral for me, and then fourth Vince Taylor is an acoustic homage to The Playboys rock’n’roll singer/frontman, a song that chugs rather than rocks and which has Ant’s vocal drifting a little awkwardly in and out of the mix. This has a demo-freshness about it, as well as its earnest reverence. Fifth Valentines is dominated by a tuneless groan and other exhaled noises, a sprawling narrative that will take a number of listens to unravel [from its length and entanglement with those domineering sounds]. Perhaps the noises are a sonic metaphor for the pain and hurt of the storyline.
As I write this I am into my second and third listens and that ‘special’ experience is already beginning to wane a little. Sixth track Darlin’ Boy brings this realisation to the fore as it continues with its busy-ness of many voices, including the cloying Oh always overhead. The middle of the album though does deliver, with eighth Punkyoungirl mixing clever lyrics with grunge guitar, and the raw singing like a teenage garage band delivering its teenage lovers’ angst. Ninth Sausage is a sweet song almost establishing its sweet melody, though again fighting with the over-exuberance of the tuneless Ohhing [who the fuck is that?!]. Tenth Cradle Your Hatred is an extended apology – one senses a mix of honesty and hyperbole here – and again there is a pop simplicity that appeals, harmonies working for a change, and strong echoes of New Radicals for me.
Two of my early favourites are the eleventh and twelfth track juxtapositions of punk Hardmentoughblokes [shades of Ian Drury] and heavy metal Shrink. Delightful full-on examples of their respective genres, the latter with a monstrous dropping bass noise. And my definite favourite is the sweet acid-folk of thirteenth Vivienne’s Tears – a love song kissed beautifully in the fresh innocence of its writing and performance.
There are three more tracks, making seventeen in all. Of course too many, but then it wouldn’t be the categorisingless album it refreshingly [or otherwise....] is. Though I should just mention that hardcore Adam Ant fans will find sixteenth Bullshit as signature a sound as you’ll get on the album, and gloriously so.