Thursday, January 24, 2013
Although three decades ago he was Britain’s biggest pop star, Adam Ant hasn’t put out an album in 17 years—an unproductive streak that comes to an end with a comeback album this week.
The inevitable “whatever happened to…” questions produce a more interesting than usual answer in Ant’s case: Several times, he’s been admitted to a psychiatric hospital—either of his own accord or by being “sectioned,” as they call involuntary commitment in England. “I’m a bit of a nutcase,” he told the Quietus this month.
His comeback album has an almost Fiona Apple-esque title: Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter, which frankly sounds like the kind of thing that someone might come up with during a manic episode. It’s a combination of naval/nautical slang phrases that, in their way, hark back to the new-wave days when Ant dressed up in glam-rock pirate regalia on the covers of albums like Kings of the Wild Frontier, the top-selling British record of 1981. Nowadays he tends to look like a more aged, but no less dapper, Johnny Depp.
Ant believes he’s doing a public service by openly discussing his mental illness as part of the new album’s publicity campaign. “They call it bipolar disorder—that’s the modern term,” he told the Telegraph. “It only means up and down; it used to be manic depression, black dog, whatever. It’s a subject surrounded by a lot of ignorance and taboo. Where I come from, there’s the poorhouse–and worse than that is the madhouse. You should never feel ashamed of it, but you do. A lot of the time you can’t take these problems even to close family because you fear that you’ll alienate them. So anyone in the public eye that comes forward and discusses it, I think it helps.”
Reviews in the UK press for Blueblack Hussar… have been mixed. The Independent gave it four out of five stars, opining that the album is “sprawling, overdue and not for everyone, but at least it's not a play-it-safe comeback with the hot producer of the day. And for that, the Hussar should be saluted.” A less pleased Contactmusic.com wrote that “17 tracks really is too long, particularly when those tracks are largely an uncoordinated mish mash of lo-fi punk throwback, drippy acoustic balladry, Casio keyboard industrial music interpretations and spaghetti western guitars.”
In a three-star review, the Guardian said, “The 17 tracks offer a rickety but entertaining mix of the best elements of his imperial period: tribal glam stomps, razor-slashed T Rex guitars, two-drummer Glitter beats, knowing homages to cult icons (Vince Taylor and Vivienne Westwood) and sex... While nothing quite reaches the dizzy heights of 'Antmusic,’ ‘Shrink’–a perhaps autobiographical romp about a man who needs medication to feel normal–is as riotous as he's sounded in three decades.”
In 1995, he released what looked for a long time like it might be his final album, Wonderful, whose title song peaked at an unremarkable No. 32 in his home country but did make it to No. 7 on the modern-rock chart in America.
He published an autobiography, Stand & Deliver, in 2006. Several spates of touring in Europe (and, briefly, America) in recent years resulted in mostly positive notices. And there is a forthcoming documentary, made by Jamie Reynolds of the Klaxons, which Ant describes as “quite raw and brutal... It culminates with me playing with Rod Stewart in Hyde Park in front of 100,000 people."
Thursday, January 10, 2013
With MTV's 24/7 music video onslaught, 1983 was also a year when previous decade's acts had to assimilate or become quickly irrelevant. Thankfully many of them (The Kinks, Bowie, Stevie Nicks, Billy Joel, Yes, Donna Summer, Robert Plant to name a few) reached fresh musical heights in the face of the new wave invasion.
Highlighted by a colorful sea of debuts, here are 20 noteworthy acts (in no order) that made their first stateside mark in 1983...
Though Culture Club took '83s Best New Artist Grammy, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart should've walked home (in matching suits) with the award. "Love Is A Stranger" (#23, November) was the dark electro-dessert that followed the main course of "Sweet Dreams," which fueled Eurythmics around the world and the seven seas. This video was initially banned for Lennox's then-shocking androgyny.
"Love Is a Stranger"
In the short span of three and a half years, Boy George and his band shook the music world -- and placed 10 singles in the U.S. Top 40 including "Time" (#2) which The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ranked as one of the 500 most influential singles in the rock era.
"Time (Clock of the Heart)"
At the end of '83, Lauper's instant splash on MTV grew into a pop culture tsunami as her debut LP, She's So Unusual, sold 16 million copies worldwide. Shot on Manhattan's lower east side, "Girls" features cameos by her mother, brother, attorney, manager, wrestler Captain Lou Albano, and secretaries pulled from her label's offices.
"Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"
"Unlike the others I'll do anything. I'm not the same. I have no shame. I'm on fire." With these words, Madonna set her stage. The edgy, punk-infused "Burning Up" (#3 U.S. dance) was the second single from her self titled debut, which (at only eight songs deep) still holds up as one of her best albums.
Recording four terrific proper albums before splitting in 1987, The Smiths, with their literate, melodic singles, and lead singer Morrissey's penchant for the dramatic, paved the way for the guitar-driven sound that dominated British rock in the 1990s.
"This Charming Man"
1983 saw the Australian group's first U.S. tour, and chart hits, "The One Thing" (#30) and "Don't Change" (#80) from their breakthrough LP, Shabook Shoobah
"The One Thing"
Certainly not pop, but still a debut well worth mentioning, Metallica's blazing Kill Em All peaked at #120, selling a modest 300,000, but as the band's popularity grew, so has Kill Em All's sales, which now total over three million copies in the U.S.
The U.K. duo of Naked Eyes placed four synth-driven hits in the U.S. Top 40 including "Promises Promises" (#11) and a percussive reinvention of the Bacharach/David chestnut "Always Something There To Remind Me" (#8) before vanishing by mid-decade.
Tears For Fears
Tears For Fears' debut, The Hurting, was a musical ode to the misery-drenched family histories of band members, Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith set to pulsing rhythms and stirring melodies.
Art Of Noise
An avant garde sound-collage ensemble of British composers whose innovative methods of sampling and electronic experimentation created musical tapestries both industrial and weirdly romantic. 1983's sensuous epic, "Moments In Love" became an unlikely hit on R&B, pop and jazz radio.
Imaginative and cinematic, synthesizer wizard Thomas Dolby's debut, The Golden Age of Wireless -- a concept record about science, radio and modern technology -- prompted Musician Magazine to call it "The best damned synth-pop record ever, period."
"One Of Our Submarines"
Britain's Matt Johnson essentially is The The. His legacy is a string of beautiful and biting rock albums, beginning with '83's Soul Mining and its underground pop hits, "This Is The Day" and "Uncertain Smile."
One of '83's most promising new rock acts, Scotland's Big Country featured bagpipe-like guitars, and Stuart Adamson's passionate vocals. Their Celtic-inspired anthems were a bold departure in the pop landscape at the time.
"Fields Of Fire"
Only four years before they were filling stadiums, REM was stretching the boundaries of rock with their atmospheric, understated full length debut, Murmur, which Rolling Stone ranked as the best album of '83.
What were some of your favorite tunes from 1983?
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
The Proclaimers "I'm On My Way"
Adam & The Ants
Thomas Dolby "Windpower"
The Fixx "One Thing Leads To Another"
The Waitresses "Christmas Wrapping"
Gene Loves Jezebel
Beastie Boys "Brass Monkey"
Fine Young Cannibals
Hall & Oates
Tears For Fears