You might be surprised at the roots-rock vibe of Cool Zombie, the lead single from Adam Ant's new CD, Adam Ant is the Blueback Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter, considering his well-earned '80s Brit-pop persona.
Heck, you might be surprised Ant is even making another record, as Blueback Hussar is his first in nearly 20 years.
Let's address the latter surprise first, and along the way likely tackle the first as well.
Blueback Hussar is an autobiographical album -- 17 songs based on chapters in his life (and other interesting anecdotes), an effort that grew out of his work on his 2006 book, Stand and Deliver: The Autobiography. The renewed creativity followed a period of domestic bliss, but also a struggle with the side effects of medicine he was taking to treat bipolar disorder.
"The book took a great deal of time and thought, and also got me thinking about making an album. It just was an opportunity really to do what I wanted to do, which was to make something a lot more personal," Ant told The Beat.
A short-lived marriage in the late '90s found the flamboyant pop star relocated for a time to central Tennessee, "an off place for an Englishman," in Ant's own words. The couple had a daughter, Lily, and family life -- Ant serving as a stay-at-home dad -- and rural America agreed with Ant.
"We had a next-door neighbor. He had a Harley, he was ex-Navy. He took me to all these little towns, to some great festivals where we would see all these great artists. I really got that Americana experience."
Ant eventually returned to London, but the time spent in Tennessee stayed with him.
"It reminded me of some things. When I was a youngster, when I got my first guitar, I had this book -- Teach Yourself Honky Tonk Blues Guitar or something. I listened to blues records and learned to play along. It was my first real introduction to music."
The notion of being creative was reawakened, and at the same time, Ant was able, with the help of a doctor, to find improved ways of dealing with his mental condition. He began playing shows regularly, eventually mixing in some of the new materials on which he was working.
"It's sort of the opposite way of working an album, but being out of the limelight allowed us to get a good band together and to form my own record label. It meant I could take a relaxed approach (to recording). We did each song individually, took our time. The only thing we said was, 'There are no rules here.' "
The Blueback Hussar (a European military officer of the 19th century) is an updated version of Ant's iconic Kings of the Wild Frontier-era character, with the second part of the album title a nickname of an 18th-century naval punishment. As usual with Ant, nothing is accidental.
"The character is a seasoned officer who got experience but who has made some mistakes."
For this tour, Ant has developed a set list that includes his hits (Goody Two Shoes, Stand and Deliver), early rarities and b-sides and "the new stuff in and amongst the rest."
"I tried to present a show that I would like to see if I was a fan."