ADAM ANT: MANNERS & PHYSIQUE (1990)
1) Room At The Top; 2) Rough Stuff; 3) If You Keep On; 4) Manners & Physique; 5) Can't Set Rules About Love; 6) U.S.S.A.; 7) Bright Lights Black Leather; 8) Piccadilly; 9) Young Dumb And Full Of It; 10) Anger, Inc.
With the release and ultimate commercial failure of Vive Le Rock, Ant disappeared for about four years from the music stage in order to pursue an acting career — dreaming, perhaps, of beating his idol, the Thin White Duke, at least in that particular area. Unfortunately, he could not even place a Man Who Fell To Earth under his belt, let alone a Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence; compared to Bowie's generally pathetic filmography, Ant's list of achievements is arch-pathetic. (Cold Steel? Spellcaster? Midnight Heat? The titles alone speak for themselves). Eventually and inevitably, Mr. Goddard had little choice but to bring back Marco Pirroni and return to the world of note-splicing and leg-wiggling.
Fate was, however, cruel enough to assure that Ant's «comeback» album would be the absolute musical nadir of his entire career. Besides Pirroni, the third leading contributor happened to be bassist André Cymone, notable for several years of working in Prince's band, upon which he switched to mostly producing records for third-rate dance-pop artists, hopelessly — and, possibly, badly — teaching them rudiments of the Prince approach. Unsurprisingly, he tried to do the same to Adam: the biggest catch of 'em all — and the most deplorable results.
Apart from the sardonic, modestly intelligent lyrics (which can hardly be heard anyway behind all the multi-tracking and echo), there is not much Adam Ant on this album, and, sadly, virtually no Pirroni: the crackling, oddly twisted riffs that used to distinguish Ant's pop songs from his competition, have been wiped out in favor of primitive dance melodies, and moreover, guitars are frequently used as merely a wall of jarring background noise behind one-finger-on-a-keyboard synthesizer patterns. 'Bright Lights, Black Leather', a lyrically sane depiction of the youth subculture of West Berlin (another hi from Bowie), in the musical department sounds like Modern Talking — few things can be more distasteful to my ears than that Godawfully abysmal chucking keyboard sound. No album with a song like that on it deserves a positive review, be it surrounded by a dozen equivalents of 'Satisfaction' and/or 'Hey Jude' (not that such a thing is possible; there must be a mathematical proof for this somewhere).
Actually, some of the songs still manage to be catchy — this is, after all, a carefully crafted and marketed dance-pop album, and 'Room At The Top', with its infectious beat and whoah-whoahs, managed an expected and, from a commercial point, fully deserved dent in the UK and US charts. But it really fits in better with all those other so-called artists produced by Cymone — Pebbles, Jermaine Stewart, etc. — than the good old «Antmusic». On 'Rough Stuff', with its in-yer-face R'n'B-isms of "lagga-lagga-boom-sh-boom", Ant feels completely out of his league — it's a miracle they even managed to complete that take, let alone turn it into another minor (non-)hit. Not just out of his league — «pitifully replaceable» should be the right term for it.
In short, I recommend to reject the record on ideological grounds: this kind of music can only be enjoyed when accompanied by videos of scantily clad hot girls doing aerobics (preferably with a lot of bend-overs), and even then, probably only from a nostalgic angle. (Actually, the official video for 'Rough Stuff' more or less satisfies that requirement, so not all is lost). Sadly, there are some good lyrics here that make vicious fun of contemporary social life, all of them wasted on trash muzak that is sucking up to contemporary social life.
Some sources state that Manners & Physique shows a heavy influence of the «Minneapolis Sound» pioneered by Prince — don't believe a word: at its best, the «Minneapolis Sound» depended on first-rate musicianship, whereas on here there is no musicianship to speak of in the first place. Did Prince, even considering the permanently increasing amount of filler in his pockets, ever release a song as awful as 'Bright Lights, Black Leather'? I don't think so. Thumbs down.
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