Lyn Jensen's Blog: Manga, Music, and Politics

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Location: Anaheim, California, United States

Regular contributor ("Carson City Limits" and other content) for Random Lengths (circulation 56,000) in San Pedro, CA, 2001-present. Manga reviewer: LA Alternative (circulation 150,000), 2005-2006. Some manga reviews also ran in NY Press around this time. Entertainment reporting: Music Connection (circulation 75,000), 1983-1906. Travel writing: Oakland Tribune (1998) and Life After 50 (2006). Other bylines: Goldmine, Star Hits, Los Angeles Reader, Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press Telegram, Blade, BAM, Daily Breeze, LA Weekly. Specializations include community news reporting, writing reviews (book, theater, concert, film, music), copywriting, resumes, editing, travel writing, publicity, screenwriting, lecturing, and content development. Education: B. A. Theater Arts, UCLA. Post-grad work, Education, Chapman University.

Friday, February 21, 2014

1983 Music Review: Adam and the Ants' "Dirk Wears White Sox" Reissue

(Epic/CBS re-issue in 1983 of the 1979 British album)
Code # (CBS 38698)
by Lyn Jensen

In 1979 Adam and the Ants' debut album Dirk Wears White Sox was released in the UK.  After that Adam Ant completely overhauled his musical and visual style into the "New Romantic" mode.  In 1983 Epic/CBS made the album available in the US.  This review was offered to Music Connection, Pulse, Goldmine, and a few regional bar freebies, but never published.

Adam Ant took the responsibility of re-packaging and re-releasing this so-called "classic" British album for American audiences, which is unusual when an artist has changed styles and personnel.  Usually such material gets re-released by a record company over the artist's dead body. 

Dirk Wears White Sox chronicles some Ant history that's unfamiliar to some American fans--it's almost the only product of his beginning punk period, before he and the Ants became the "New Romantic" Kings of the Wild Frontier.  It also features the original Ants--the musicians that shortly thereafter left Adam for a female vocalist and were turned into Bow Wow Wow. 

As such this isn't really a record, it's an artifact.  It sheds light on a major star's early period but can't stand on musical merit alone.  I'm a staunch punk-loving Ant fan but there's not one track here I care to hear again. 

The biggest problem is the music rarely fits the lyrics, which fit perfectly into the punk-poetry school we've already heard from artists as diverse as Exene, Patti Smith, and Jim Carroll.  Reading the lyric sheet is the most interesting thing about this album.  The words fit perfectly into all the standard punk themes of alienation, despair, and decadence.  The tunes drag on, however, while the lyrics cry for an upbeat approach.  The music needs to contrast with the depression and tension of the modern world, not add to it.

Ant people, however, will be intrigued because the raw material--the Ant voice, both in vocals and words--is there.  Shortly after this Adam teamed up with Marco Pirroni, who probably was the man who had better musical sense to when fitting tunes to lyrics.  Also came along the "New Romantic" image that's served Adam the Ant so well since.  It's not often outsiders get such insights into the complex processes that go into making a star.