By Thomas Michalski
In a backwards-looking pop cultural landscape, permeated by nostalgia and meta-quotation, it is worth noting that no one seems to be trying to make it big aping Adam and the Ants. With post-punk, and indeed the wider sphere of 1980s pop, serving as popular reference points, Joy Division, Depeche Mode, Talking Heads and many others have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity and influence, but you’d be hard pressed to find any hip teenager sporting the New Romantic look, except perhaps as a winking Halloween costume. That motley amalgam of Day-Glo glam, punk outrageousness and, um pirates, now seems gaudy and pretentious, which, incidentally is much the same words that New York Times critic Robert Palmer used to describe the band’s brand of “tribal pop” in 1981.
But if their fashion sense resolutely refused to become timeless, and ultimately eclipsed anything else about the group in the popular imagination, the actual music, conversely, stands up admirably even after all these years. Any band that draws on post-punk or new wave owes a debt to Adam and the Ants, even if they only choose to name-check their more canonized contemporaries. Formed in 1977, the original incarnation of the band was rooted firmly in post-punk, albeit a particularly accessible strain of that famously gloomy genre. Their debut album, Dirk Wears White Sox, released in 1979, is full of the punchy