In 1982, the hugely successful new wave band Adam and the Ants disbanded, after three albums, two of them chart-toppers in their native UK. Lead vocalist/songwriter Adam Ant and guitarist/songwriter Marco Pirroni decided to focus their efforts on Ant’s solo career. In October, they released Ant’s first solo album: Friend or Foe.
Most people know the album for it’s debut hit, “Goody Two-Shoes”, a peppy dance track that topped the charts in the UK. “Goody Two-Shoes” is a brilliantly satirical look at Ant’s frustration with press intrusion and how it related to his clean-cut, goody two-shoes image. The song is a perfect lead single: it’s bright, fun, and amazingly singable. The repeated “don’t drink, don’t smoke / what do you do?” is a perfectly crafted earworm, backed up by amazing horns and a tight guitar line. It retains some of that Adam and the Ants weirdness, but strays back compared to some of the more off-beat songs of the album: a brilliant combination for a lead single.
Because “Goody Two-Shoes” was released early on in Ant’s solo career, the song has two different versions of cover art. One attributes the song to Adam and the Ants, the other attributes it to just Adam Ant. You can view this as a microcosm of the album as a whole: even though this is Adam Ant going solo, the sound has not changed that much from the Adam and the Ant days. Ant continues to sprinkle in fun vocal noises, like the screams and “huhs” in songs like “Prince Charming” or “Stand and Deliver”. The first song off the album, “Friend or Foe,” features a backing line consisting of vocal noises, with a two note “wah-wah” repeated over and over again. The next song, “Something Girl”, features whistles. Likewise, Friend or Foe makes wonderful use of percussion. The percussion is always wild and interesting, bringing fun, exciting new beats and rhythms to the songs. The unified sound makes it so that even the cover song doesn’t stand out. Friend or Foe features a cover of the Doors song “Hello I Love You.” However, the song is reworked and redone in such a way that sounds exclusively Adam Ant, in a style that fits perfectly with the rest of the album, that it wouldn’t surprise me if someone, listening to this album for the first time, didn’t realize it was a cover in the first place.
Another highlight from this album is “Desperate But Not Serious”, the third single released from the album. After starting out with an amazing fifteen seconds of horns, percussion, and guitars, the song quiets down to a slower, more sultry sound, Ant’s lower register put up against softer percussion and a throbbing bass line. The song wonderfully toes those extremes, bringing back the raucous horns for an amazing bridge and then combining the two for a final chorus. Likewise, the song is just fun. If you want fun, catchy, and charming line to work a song off of, “desperate but not serious / your kisses drive me delirious” is a pretty good hook for the job.
Friend or Foe is an amazingly fun album. It’s light, poppy, bright, and just full of unique arrangements in a pure Adam Ant sound. Give it a listen if you like 1980s new wave, a new and fun way of arranging music, or just have the song “Goody Two-Shoes” stuck in your head from the article.