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Blast From the Past #2 – In A World of Their Own


When I was four, I wanted to be Adam Ant. He was, without a doubt, the coolest man in the world. He dressed like a pirate. He had the vintage jackets, plus fours, shiny shoes and a streak of make-up across his face. And as for that music? Go back and listen to it again. It’s bloody mental. Galloping drums, post-punk guitars and a yelping egocentric nutter screaming about how magic he was. ‘Ridicule is nothing to be scared of’ he sang, and he meant it. He was carpeing the diem and he genuinely didn’t give a fuck what anyone thought about him.

He made me want to wear a bandana. I didn’t know what a bandana was. That’s how cool Adam Ant was.

He’s endemic of a group of select acts who transcend the music scene and create their own world. It’s difficult to do. Some bands emerge to massive success due to looking right, due to one great (or execrable) song which catapults them up the ladder. Some emerge as part of a pack who come along in a package (Manchester, Seattle, Britpop.) But occasionally, you get an act who belong almost entirely to themselves and the universe they inhabit. It isn’t a specific type of music – The Pogues came along in the synth-obsessed early 80’s sounding like a fight at an Irish wedding – and nor is it an easy thing to do. Artifice is the enemy of success in alternative circles, try too hard and you WILL be ostracised (Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, we are looking at you.) The Fall exist in a bizarre world of Mark E. Smith’s creation; The Smiths were a curious brew of aesthetete and football hooligan; Uncle Tupelo were doing what they were doing and dressing how they were dressing because that’s what came naturally. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are a good contemporary example, as are the Flaming Lips. It is what it is and you can come to their world, but it isn’t the one you inhabit normally.

Some bands try too hard. Suede’s attempt to morph Bowie and Roxy into 90’s culture was doomed from the start; Primal Scream too obviously played at it for many to be fooled; The Libertines threatened to do it then lapsed into panto. I’m not a big fan of either, but I would offer up Muse and the Arctic Monkeys as bands who have arrived fully-formed from their own imaginations. It’s possibly why so many of these groups attract huge success, or at least devout cult followings. People respond to this music as it resonates past your ear, it strikes a chord. It appeals to the bohemian in us, the rebellious, the one not paying the mortgage. It affects the way we dress, the way we get our hair cut, the types of book we read. It is immensely powerful.

Of course, as Adam went off the rails spectacularly due to mental disorders, maybe it brings its own pressure. However, visiting the strange and wonderful world of these acts always makes the drab, mundane one we inhabit seem all the more bearable.


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