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Adam Ant has never been anyone’s idea of typical.
So would you expect an album title any less bizarre than “Adam Ant is The Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter”?
There is plenty of explanation from his PR folks about the origins of the title of Ant’s ninth studio album – his first in 17 years.
The truncated version: The “Blueblack Hussar” refers to the calvary hussar units in Hungary in the 15th century who dressed in distinctive hats, braided jackets and sometimes, pants with the yellow vertical stripe – all usual onstage-Ant gear.
And “Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter” is a naval term that refers to being punished, often by flogging, which, according to press materials, is how Ant felt about being signed to a major label for many years.
This album comes on his own imprint…Blueblack Hussar Records.
So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, what to make of Ant’s return?
Those who attended last fall’s Music Midtown got a taste of 21st century Ant, who still wore his elaborate stage costumes despite stifling heat and rolled through his canon of late-‘70s and ‘80s favorites without any obvious disdain.
But this record is his baby, a work-in-progress for years that, despite its lack of commercial appeal and fragmented focus, feels extremely authentic.
Throughout, the album is a lo-fi affair, with vocals often difficult to discern over the music (“Dirty Beast,” which has elements of Ant’s last semi-hit, “Wonderful,” best exemplifies this), or oddly mesmerizing droning (“Valentines,” with its purposely – we think – off-key background vocals will either hold you captive or send your finger scrambling for the “next” button).
Ant, 58, has publicly struggled over the years with bi-polar disorder and for awhile, became known to current generations more for throwing a car alternator through a pub window than for making his bones as a post-punk British New Wave hero responsible for such gems as “Goody Two Shoes” and “Strip.”
But age certainly hasn’t blunted his edges, evidenced on “Punkyoungirl,” where he makes a naughty suggestion about skirt-lifting that sounds just as smarmy as when Dave Matthews sang a similar command. Ant, however, also infuses his lyrics with humor (“What’s under there? I hope to Christ it’s lingerie”).
There are a few nods to his musical past on “Hard Men, Tough Blokes,” a searing rocker with serrated guitars and a handclap-stomp beat, and the galloping “Bull****,” the album’s most electrifying song.
Ant also pays tribute to his former manager, Malcolm McLaren (more often associated with the Sex Pistols) on “Who’s a Goofy Bunny, Then?”, a song he recorded as a demo in the early ‘80s.
But while Ant is to be commended for taking the independent route, the problem with doing things your own way is that there is rarely anyone there to say, “This isn’t as great as you think.”
Ant could have benefited from some judicious guidance since some of “Blueblack Hussar” rambles uncontrollably. But it’s also inherently charming and yes, a return to the nutty universe Ant effectively ruled for years.
By Melissa Ruggieri, The Music Scene