No-one forgets the first album they ever bought. Whether we decide to deny the fact and claim some other, much cooler sounding masterwerk as our founding musical influence or whether we modestly acknowledge that yes, it really was The Smurfs album that we saved up our pocket money so eagerly to buy, we’re stuck with that initial choice, that initial commitment to musical genius. Which is why I’m so grateful for that day in Woolworths in 1981 when I bought Kings of the Wild Frontier by Adam and the Ants. Because for all their slightly questionable new wave posturing, and the generation-defining white stripe across the nose of the narcissus-like lead singer, Adam and his Ants retain enough of a sense of ’cool’ to make a person proud (and relieved) to acknowledge them as their first musical purchase. And Kings of the Wild Frontier is, let’s face it, a great album. From classic radio-friendly singles such as ’Antmusic,’ ’Dog Eat Dog,’ and the album title track, to more sinister and exploratory electro-pop pieces such as ’Killer in the Home’ and ’Ants Invasion,’ to bizarre experimentations with ethnic drum-beats and wild west/pirate mythology (notably ’The Magnificent Five’ and ’Jolly Roger’), the album was both distinctive and imitative – a pastiche of art-school symbolism and popular and high cultural references alongside moments of startling imagination. It echoed with the pop art sensibilities of Andy Warhol. Kings of the Wild Frontier was one of those works that, for a short time at least, was everywhere. For all his pretty-pretty looks and apparently irresistible heterosexuality, Adam Ant appealed to young and old, male and female, alike, breaking new ground on the cutting edge Old Grey Whistle Test and then appearing almost simulatenously on establishment vehicles such as The Royal Variety Show. Albums that can cut across such a social range whilst still breaking new artistic ground are rare, and Kings is certainly one of those. In its unique blend of musical styles it connected with the mindset of the early 1980s and marked out the ground for New Romantic bands followed. It was, undoubtedly, a great album. It still is.
Adam and the Ants, Kings of the Wild Frontier (1980)