ADAM AND THE ANTS: PRINCE CHARMING (1981)
The sequel to Kings is just your stereotypical sequel — same stuff, less inspired, more predictable, and probably your best bet to diagnose yourself as a major fan or a passing admirer of the artist. From a slightly detached point of view, Prince Charming's main goals have even less to do with music than those of Kings, and much more with image. One need not go further than the promo video for the first single, 'Stand And Deliver', to understand that Stuart Goddard's greatest dream in life all along had been to show off in an 18th century dress before millions of people. (I have to admit that he wears it real well, though.)
With the abandoning of the «Burundi drum sound», the music loses a good chunk of its energy, and to my ears it also sounds like Pirroni goes lighter on interesting new riffage. After all, the album's title track, another huge commercial success, has eventually been identified as a complete rip-off — not «tribute» or «imitation», but straightahead theft — of Rolf Harris' far less known 'War Canoe' from 1965 (granted, the song itself was based on a traditional rowboat theme, but that is beyond the point); who really knows what other obscure compositions may have served as backbones for the rest of these tracks? It is as if, upon gaining self-confidence after the fame of Kings, Adam had decided that not only was style superior to substance (that he knew all along), but, in fact, substance was a major obstacle to style. Write good melodies and, what do you know, people may start concentrating on them rather than on your beloved kitsch.
Still, as another self-indulgent exercise in humorless absurdity, Prince Charming may deserve recognition as Kings' sincerely trying, but far less gifted younger brother. For the most part, the band has dropped the «Antpeople» gimmick, locking it inside just one of the album's tracks (and also arguably the worst one: 'Ant Rap' makes the early white attempt at hip-hop sound as pathetically miserable as Debbie Harry, exceptionally, managed to make it sexy). But many of the other gimmicks have been successfully transplanted here as well, including The Pirate Gag ('Stand And Deliver'), The African Gag ('That Voodoo!'), The Native American Gag ('Mowhok'), and even The Spaghetti Western Gag ('5 Guns West', a latecomer in this world to feature in the soundtrack to Blazing Saddles, but firmly inside the same aesthetics nevertheless).
It is also quite likely that, depending on the ratio of your coolness, you will want to like and defend any track that goes by the name of 'Picasso Visita El Planeta De Los Simios' — not so much for its music, which is just by-the-book power pop, but for the hipness of its subject matter. Never mind that the song does not even begin to compete in emotion with 'Picasso's Last Words' or in humor with Cale and Richman's 'Pablo Picasso', but a song about Picasso! visiting the Planet of the Apes! titled in Spanish! how awesome is that?
Not nearly as awesome as some exercises in post-modern synthesis can be, I'm afraid. 'Stand And Deliver' is still the album's best song: Stuart is so goddamn happy to be playing the «dandy highwayman» that the happiness is well bestowed on the music, simple as it is, and even if it is not the epitome of a great vocal melody (most of the verses are just shouted) or a great hook (the chorus hardly represents the basic philosophy of «standing and delivering» the way it should get down to you), it is at least infectious in terms of pure enthusiasm. The rest does not go that far.
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