[Review] Adam and The Ants: Dirk Wears White Sox (1979)

Before trying another flavor (antmusic), Adam and the Ants tried to be a punk band.

Kronomyth 1.0: Punks before pirates.

The English “punk” bands that formed in the wake of the Sex Pistols eventually went soft, from Adam and the Ants to XTC. Some quickly shifted gears (The Police), others morphed into goth-rock bands (The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Damned). By the time the American punk scene took root, most of the original English punks were playing in quirky pop bands.

I mention this because Dirk Wears White Sox is definitely a punk record. You’ll detect a hint of the sophisticated harmonies to come, but mostly this is angular, early punk music propelled by stop-and-start rhythms and texture over melody. Think early XTC meets early Siouxsie. It would have been interesting to hear this group evolve, had Malcom McLaren not shanghaied David Barbe (Barbarossa) and Matthew Ashman for the inferior Bow Wow Wow.

I’ll confess, most of these songs are easily overshadowed by what followed on Kings of the Wild Frontier. Still, Cartrouble (especially the second part), Never Trust a Man, Cleopatra, Nine Plan Failed and Catholic Day are songs that every Adam and the Ants fans should hear. They show a different, darker side of Adam Ant—a side that was more interested in pushing buttons than sewing them on. The rest of the Ants deserve a lot of credit for getting the sound right. Barbe gives Rat Scabies competition for punk’s best drummer and Ashman’s guitar playing, while severe, doesn’t yield an inch to convention. More than a few times, I wondered if even Gang of Four sounded this heavy.

Lyrically, well, I’m not always sure what Ant is on about. Maybe that’s to be expected from an album with such an abstruse (or is it just absurd?) title. Animals and Men and The Idea appear concerned with big things, but Ant doesn’t seem to have the attention span to delve deeply into them. Then again, the album’s rapid movement from one musical idea to the next is half of its appeal. Although initially overlooked by the broader record-buying public (the minor label release didn’t help matters), Dirk Wears White Sox got a second, wider showing in the 80s with some minor track shuffling—and no doubt confused a lot of people who were expecting antmusic instead of artmusic.

Original elpee version

A1. Cartrouble (Parts 1&2)
A2. Digital Tenderness
A3. Nine Plan Failed
A4. Day I Met God
A5. Tabletalk
B1. Cleopatra
B2. Catholic Day
B3. Never Trust a Man (with Egg on His Face)
B4. Animals and Men
B5. Family of Noise
B6. The Idea

CD reissue bonus tracks
12. Zerox
13. Whip in My Valise
14. Kick
15. Physical
16. Cartrouble (Parts 1&2)
17. Friends
18. Cartrouble
19. Kick!

US reissue elpee version (1983)
A1. Car Trouble (3:24)
A2. Kick (2:08)
A3. Digital Tenderness (2:57)
A4. Nine Plan Failed (5:06)
A5. Family of Noise (2:33)
A6. Tabletalk (5:26)
B1. Zerox (3:45)
B2. Cleopatra (3:12)
B3. Never Trust a Man (with Egg on His Face) (3:10)
B4. Animals and Men (3:14)
B5. The Idea (3:21)
B6. Whip in My Valise (3:55)

The Players

Adam Ant (all voices, electric and acoustic guitar, piano, harmonica), Matthew Ashman (guitar, piano), David Barbe (percussion), Andrew Warren (bass). Produced by Adam Ant; engineered by Benny King.

The Pictures

Front cover photography and concept by Clare Johnson and Juanito Antonio Wadhwani. Models dress by Clare Johnson. Inner sleeve portraits by Philip Grey. Graphics and layout by Derek Bradbury.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in November 1979 in the UK (Do-IT, RIDE 3) with lyrics innersleeve.

  1. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in 1981 in the UK (DO IT/Virgin, RIDE 3/M3). Reached #16 on the UK charts.
  2. Re-released with new track order on elpee and cassette in April 1983 in the US (Epic, FE/PET 38698) with lyrics innersleeve.
  3. Re-packaged with Kings of the Wild Frontier on expanded 2-for-1 2CD in 2000 in the UK (Columbia, 499924 2) with 3 bonus tracks.
  4. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2006 in Europe (Sony/BMG, 88697003072) with 8 bonus tracks.
Dirk Wears White Sox album cover (1983)
Epic FE 38698 album cover

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