For the sophomore year of the UK’s National Album Day, I’m, quite naturally, going to choose the second LP I ever owned.
This was the second album I bought for myself, from the Central Milton Keynes branch of Virgin Records circa late 1981. You could call it the Night Porter of my record collection, and four decades on it’s still a disturbingly raw indie masterpiece.
It’s Dirk Wears White Sox by Adam and the Antz, and next month this coruscating cult classic celebrates its 40th anniversary.
Sometimes context illuminates all. When Adam Ant emblazoned himself all over pop music in 1981, it was as a swashbuckling dandy in rouged cheeks and pirate dress. In the early spring of 1982 Adam ditched the Ants and released a solo album, Friend Or Foe. that was surprisingly intriguing, fresh and strong.
By this time I had bought both Prince Charming and Dirk Wears White Sox , which was actually the 1979 debut album that preceded my first – Kings Of The Wild Frontier, and was made with different personnel. Three of those founding Ants later formed Bow Wow Wow, and a fourth went on to drum and bum with Culture Club.
Dirk is an adventurous, noirish album, with stylistic links to Captain Beefheart (on the mucho prescient Digital Tenderness) and the compelling grotesqueries of late Beatles and early solo Lennon work (Nine Plan Failed), among other things. It ranges from the merry dementia of Animals And Men to the blues stagger of Family of Noise, with its loopy guitar signature introducing each chorus. Throughout, the bass and guitar work is inventive, as are the songs and arrangements, all from Adam’s own anthill. In an uncharacteristically sentimental note on the inner sleeve of the 1983 reissue made possible after gaining the rights after the Do It label folded, he writes that the years 1976 to 1979, when he was creating this music, “have always been very dear to my heart.”
It’s easy to see why.
It’s stark, minimalist, primitive, primal, angular, bizarre, brutal, and brittle.
Dont’t skip, unzip.