Adam Ant Is The Blueblack Hussar In Marrying The Gunner's Daughter
added: 26 Jan 2013
// release date: 21 Jan 2013 // label: Blueblack Hussar Records
reviewer: Claudia A
latest solo studio album is his first in almost seventeen years, boasting a title you won’t forget in a hurry. The former Dandy Highwayman
has shed his creative skin of yonder to re-emerge as his latest incarnation, the Blueblack Hussar
The new album contains a whopping seventeen tracks (presumably to make up for all those ‘lost’ years); but you won’t get yesteryear’s Ant Music for sure! Some of the songs were originally demos, but have been revamped for Adam Ant Is The Blueblack Hussar In Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter
. The result is an eclectic mix of tracks that refuse to get categorised (a bit like its artist), but – although not always instantly accessible – make for intriguing listening.
To put it upfront: this is very much a concept album and musically speaking, a pet project. Above all, it is a deeply personal affair, suggested by the choice of title (i.e. “he’s marrying the gunner’s daughter” is old naval slang for a type of punishment during which some unfortunate sod was strapped to a canon and severely whipped). Ant uses it as a metaphor to express his contempt for the way the record industry exploits its artists.
As for the ‘Hussar’: although Hungarian (‘Huszár’), the word originates from the Serbo-Croatian ‘Gusar’ – meaning pirate
. Now things begin to fall into place!
Opener ‘Cool Zombie’ has hit potential and it’s perhaps because for that reason why it was chosen for the accompanying promo video. The song is a tale of two cities - namely the return of the Blueblack Hussar from the rural wilderness of Tennessee to London town. The lyrics, however, also address Ant’s well-documented battle with his bi-polar disorder and how the medication turns him into a cool zombie. The composition has an inspired alt-country twang to it, and Ant opts for a peculiar intonation on some of the words (emphasized by a mock nasal voice), thus making it sound more ‘hillbilly’. Really great track, that one!
‘Stay In The Game’ seduces through its swamp-rock infused undercurrent, a brooding affair partly reminding of Australian alt-scene artist MJ Halloran
. In contrast, the lyrics are witty and deadpan (“I’ve done it once before / sold my soul to rock n roll / words can mess with your head / words can cut you to the quick / what’s in a name…”). Make no mistake though; this is a song about personal demons, and a razor-sharp one at that!
Next is the title track (of sorts), quite edgy in arrangement and heavy on the percussion as well as the ole riff work. Naturally, we’re talking the story of how our anti-hero evolved to the title character (he found a scheme, learned to dream). The song is a combination of sung verses interspersed with spoken-word rap-style sections, as well as edgy drum- and guitar solos.
One of my favourites on the album (apart from ‘Cool Zombie’) is ‘Vince Taylor’ – a musical homage to the 50’s rock ‘n’ roller. As befits such topic, the song boasts a distinctive rockabilly/psychobilly retro vibe, complemented by a very choppy beat that also makes it quite danceable.
Slow-paced, oddly fragmented and rather difficult to decipher, ‘Valentines’ comes across like some angst-ridden slice of torment – supported by Georgina Baillie’s
perfectly balanced humming on backing. The spirit of Nico
is in there somewhere…
‘Dirty Beast’ leans more toward harmony and floats along loftily in subdued baroque-pop style, while Ant demands “Treat me like the beast I am!”
A humorous send-up is ‘PunkyYoungGirl’ about a middle-aged man meeting a sassy girl at a party, while the composition itself won’t set any party ablaze.
We’re in verbal top form again with ‘Cradle Your Hatred’ – with its a-Capella backing chorus and melodramatic synth-pop influences, it’s one of the album’s more unusual numbers. Lyrics like “I’m sorry I ate my soup with a fork / I’m sorry I don’t listen when you talk” once more prove Ant’s skills as a wordsmith in the ‘up yours’ department.
I really dig ‘Hard Men Tough Blokes’ with its hot-rocking strumming, played against jerky/choppy post-punk rhythms. This number is pumped full with adrenalin, and for once, Ant’s voice here rings through really prominent.
‘Shrink’ is self-explanatory really – another torment-laden and highly personal affair that’s delivered with the right level of aggressiveness.
Two songs are dedicated to Ant’s friends who influenced, shaped and managed him: Dame Vivienne Westwood
and the late Malcolm McLaren
While the former ‘Vivienne’s Tears’ is a melodious pop ballad with some harmonious and singular guitar play, the latter, ‘Who’s A Goofy Bunny’, begs to be performed live together with one Ed Tudor Pole
. Really, really: the refrain begs for it!
‘How Can I Say I Miss You?’ fuses various elements of alt-country rock and has a real cool groove running through, while Ant’s chorus sounds like a Sioux mating call. There’s a reprise of the track serving as the closing number, though the reprise is purely instrumental.
Finally, Ant sails back into familiar territory with ‘Bull****’. It’s the one song on the album that reminds the most of his old ‘Dandy Highwayman’ days. A fast-paced rhythm, dual drumming, and a catchy tune turn this into a bursting-with-energy ditty indeed!
As mentioned before, some of the songs will leave Ant’s hardcore fans - and perhaps even some newcomers – a little bewildered. Then again, why should we concern ourselves? There are enough tracks on the album that make for worthy contenders to his previous outputs, just in a different way.
Prince Charming is dead. Long live the Blueblack Hussar!
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