all sucking choccy bars

A few weeks back, Joe from The White Noise Revisited described his history with the music of Adam & the Ants, particularly the band’s first CD Dirk Wears White Sox, which features none of the “Burundi beat” or pirate shtick they later became known for. That stuff is fun and includes some fine pop tunes, but Dirk is another beast entirely, partly because the band is nearly entirely different. I hadn’t listened to it for quite some time, but TWNR inspired me to pull it out again (along with its contemporary set of Peel Sessions recordings).

I don’t know what was going on with guitars in England in the late seventies, but my suspicion is that someone surreptitiously altered a bunch of chord guides, because there was quite an epidemic of bizarre, almost Beefheart-like chording going on then. Early XTC, Gang of Four, and the Ants’ guitarists all suddenly were playing half-diminished skronkmented chords in Q minor, splattering great globs of wild guitar color all over their recordings. This was also the first flowering of the post-punk movement, wherein musicians realized that the idea wasn’t just to keep slamming the same four chords but to do whatever their ears and hands could find. So we get a grab-bag of influences or similarities, ranging from the aforementioned Beefheart, to funk bass, to reggae (already present in punk itself, of course), even psychedelia and the lightest most gossamer hint of the dreaded prog (or were those moments when the rhythm popped out of 4/4 just accidents, right?).

Here are two tracks from the band’s Peel Sessions of 26 March 1979, “Ligotage” (look it up if you have to), a track that I don’t think was ever recorded in studio, and a frantic version of the band’s tribute to Italian Futurists, “Animals and Men.” From Dirk proper, “Digital Tenderness” is one of the catchiest tracks, with the interplay among the guitars, bass, and percussion striking a nearly Latin feel at times. More on the weird side, two of Adam Ant’s bizarre, science-fictional narratives, “Nine Plan Failed” and “The Idea.” Basses may have been flanged for your protection.

Adam & the Ants “Ligotage” (Peel Sessions, 1979)
Adam & the Ants “Animals and Men” (Peel Sessions, 1979)
Adam & the Ants “Digital Tenderness” (Dirk Wears White Sox, 1980)
Adam & the Ants “Nine Plan Failed” (Dirk Wears White Sox, 1980)
Adam & the Ants “The Idea” (Dirk Wears White Sox, 1980)

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