2004 – Sony/BMG
Post-Punk/ New Wave/ New Romantic
Note: I am reviewing the 2004 reissue of Prince Charming which comprises of the original album released in 1981 and six demos and writing tapes also from 1981.
Prince Charming is the third and final album from British costume-rockers Adam and The Ants (although Adam later went on to a solo career), and after listening to it the whole way through I think I can see why the band deserted their leader. Most of the tracks are vapid and uninteresting and, at times, even actively irritating.
We start out with Scorpios which is energetic enough and bristling with a vicious showmanship and it seems like we’ll be in for an okay, if somewhat over-acted, record, but instead we get Picasso Visita Planeta Del Los Simios which is, frankly, just boring. The odd tune about the famous cubist painter visiting the planet of the apes seems like a hark back to Animals and Men (a track off Dirk Wears White Sox about the futurist movement), but the wild atmosphere and the witty artistic pretention are so subdued that I’m not even sure it was ever there.
This lack of self-consciousness and wit continues on other tracks like Five Guns West and Mohowk where the band’s cartoonish fascination with characters presents as either parody or just plain embarrassing awfulness. In fact, the entire record can’t seem to make up its mind about whether it’s seriously humorous or just a joke for kids.
There is a definite “child-safe” feel to this album, which is not in itself a bad thing, but here it seems disingenuous and a bit like a marketing ploy to grab a new audience. This sugar-coating is particularly evident of That Voodoo! which is musically similar to the sleaze-rock of Whip In My Valise, but is just so sexless and empty that it’s laughable.
Mile High Club and S.E.X one would also have thought would be maximally raunchy, but they too have been spayed and hollowed to the extent that there is nothing left. Not to mention the fact that the music on these two tracks goes nowhere and adds nothing to the album.
And then we have the infamous Ant Rap which is just one of the saddest pieces of music I have ever heard, and not in a touchingly emotional way. It starts out awful and keeps on going until it either stops or you get so sick of it that you turn it off. I mean, with lyrics like “I knock it on the head and go for a curry” even Vanilla Ice would be ashamed.
It’s not all bad though, as there are actually two brilliant tracks hidden amongst the rest of this trash. Prince Charming is a real kicker with its pounding beat white noise guitar which prowl through the track threatening to engulf the kid-friendly pop campness and the convincing earnestness of Adam’s vocals which build up to an all encompassing chant which draws in an embraces the listener.
Stand And Deliver too stands out with the band’s signature double drum kit being used to great effect for the first time on the record. The lyrics are clever and catchy mixing over the top theatricality with top notch writing which is a welcome relief to hear. This song, for me, comes across as a manifesto of aestheticism hidden beneath a facade of Hollywood Robin Hood nonsense, and this is the kind of thing that really sets The Ants apart from rest of the New Romantic pap.
As for the bonus tracks on the re-release, they’re not particularly interesting. Most of them are just poor recordings of the songs that eventually went on to the full record. Who’s A Goofy Bunny is oddly fun in its back to basics post-punk sound, but on the whole these extras don’t liven up the album at all.
So my verdict is that Prince Charming is a pretty awful album. It has some mildly interesting songs, a lot of truly terrible ones, and two very good ones. I wouldn’t really recommend this as something that is necessary or even desirable to own, but hey – you’re kids might have some fun with it.
One of the best tracks off Prince Charming.
I must say, however, that the clip is magnificent.