Adam Ant: The Blueblack Hussar (Sunrise Pictures)

You get the feeling he doesn’t particularly care if you hear what he’s saying, only that he gets to speak about himself. And you’d probably be right.

 

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Adam Ant puts on makeup. Adam Ant preens in the mirror. Adam Ant talks about his past. Adam Ant shows off his possessions and his tattoos. Adam Ant smokes and drinks. Adam Ant sings in his kitchen, flanked by the two barely legal, should-be Playmates who function as his backup singers-slash-dancers. Adam Ant wears things on his head: pirate hats, skull caps, bandannas. His head is always covered.

OK, maybe that’s not all this DVD is about. You’ll also see Adam Ant on stage, where his performances are raw and his banter inane and profanity-filled. You’ll see him visit a local guitar shop and make some young Brit boys’ dreams by jamming with them. He’ll go to Paris and meet Charlotte Rampling, telling her how much he idolized her in Addio, Fratello Crudele—you know, the movie where she was 25 and topless? (He’ll also give her an Adam Ant t-shirt; no, that’s not awkward, not in the least.)

You’ll strain to hear what he’s saying half the time. The background noise is loud, the microphones poorly placed. He’s got a strong accent and he doesn’t always enunciate. You get the feeling he doesn’t particularly care if you hear what he’s saying, only that he gets to speak about himself. And you’d probably be right.

In 2013, after a 15-year hiatus marred by relapsing mental illness, Ant returned to the biz, self-releasing Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar. And you know what? It’s a really, really good album. Prince Charming’s still got it. It doesn’t feel like a comeback, so much as a continuation of where Adam & the Ants left off. It’s stripped down, raw, wearing its punk influences on its record sleeve. And this DVD is filmmaker Jack Bond’s attempt to capture that return.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Adam Ant was a pioneer. He was innovative, intelligent, and groundbreaking. He took the punk sound that dominated London at the time and put his own flair on it. He had a look that was his and nobody else’s: frilly collars, military jackets, eyeliner, and Indian warpaint. The three albums he put out with Adam & the Ants were ahead of their time and, although they are still of that time, they sound just as good today.

And then the Ants disbanded and Adam went solo. His sound gradually meandered toward the pop side, and his ubiquitous MTV presence and matinee idol cheekbones left punk far, far behind. But through it all, he stayed true to himself: to his look, to his words, and to his rich, supple voice. That voice is still with him on Blueblack Hussar, although the range isn’t quite what it used to be. But one listen to those vocals and, even if the music’s unfamiliar, you’ll know that voice. You always know that voice.

I still like that album, and those that preceded it. I still listen to them today. But after watching this film, I took an extended break. And you know why? Because I realized just how shallow, self-centered, and—I’ll say it—sad Adam Ant has become. Think about it: He’s hired barely twentysomethings to sing backup and fawn over him onstage. His apartment is always filled with young people; it’s like he’s afraid to be alone, and even more afraid of being reminded that he’s no longer young. (Ant’s 61.) He shows off his things, collectibles that seem to fill gaps in his life where real relationships should be.

For years, I idolized Ant. I admired him. Now I just feel sorry for him. | Laura Hamlett


Disclaimer: This review in no way is meant to dismiss the severity of mental illness, especially that from which Ant suffers. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in his early 20s and has struggled with it over the years, some times more than others. He was institutionalized there for a bit in the 1990s, and heavily medicated during that time. As I see it, this comeback was a chance for him to find himself again, to get out of his head and before an audience. But people with bipolar disorder can have real relationships and a positive self-image (as I do). Sure, we all cope with psychological problems in our own ways, and whatever works for one person might not for another. I get that. It’s just that Ant’s coping style seems, at least to me, shallow and lonely. And that makes me sad.

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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