A swashbuckling stalwart of the post-punk era, Adam Ant has suffered unimaginable trials in the 17 years since his last album, 1995′s Strip. Arrested and later sectioned after an altercation in North London, his life-long struggles with mental health have become agonizingly public — too much so, one imagined, for a viable comeback. But this ever-colorful and inventive artist was not to be so easily silenced.
Having spent the last three years reminding live audiences of his unrivalled onstage magnetism, Adam’s studio relaunch is every bit as epic as its pseudo-cinematic title. The loose concept behind Adam Ant Is… is to tell of the further adventures of his “Prince Charming” cavalryman character. This, for the most part, is a fiction which doesn’t intrude on the more serious matter of exorcising the many demons he’s acquired in real life.
Mostly recorded with Morrissey’s long-serving sidekick Boz Boorer, its 17 tracks largely spurn the tribal pummel of Adam’s early-’80s hits. Now, as then, this inveterate fan of David Bowie and Roxy Music loves a good makeover, and clearly relishes making his grand re-entrance with “Cool Zombie,” a swampy Tennessee blues which nobody might remotely have expected of him (it’s a throwback, apparently, to his times of marital retreat in the mountains near Nashville, in the mid 1990s).
Elsewhere, Adam rekindles the energy of his punk roots, venting his anger over his treatment by the medical profession on unreconstructed blasts like “Shrink,” while “Stay In The Game” evokes the sleazy post-punk rock of his pre-fame Dirk Wears White Sox era. In the (partial) title track, there’s even a strong whiff of electro — overall, it’s a fabulously varied bill of fare.
On “Vince Taylor,” our hero pays tribute to the wayward British ’50s rock ‘n’ roller responsible for “Brand New Cadillac” (as covered by The Clash), who died in obscurity amid psychiatric problems and drug abuse. When Adam archly croons, “I nearly done a Vince Taylor,” it’s only partly for laughs. Just imagine if he hadn’t made it through to serve up this hilarious, rollicking slice of Ant-ness in 2013. That, really and truly, would be our loss.