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Review: Johnny Normal and Marco Pirroni: ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’

Birmingham-born post-punk exponent Johnny Normal offers a modern take on Kings of the Wild Frontier, a timeless New Wave release that reached number one in the UK album chart in 1981. It also spawned three hit singles: “Dog Eat Dog,” “Kings of the Wild Frontier” and “Antmusic.”

The project was initially the idea of Adam Ant himself, an admirer of Johnny’s music. Ants’ guitarist and songwriting partner Marco Pirroni also lent his support – and musical talent – to the 12-track download only album.

While on tour supporting Mr. Ant, Johnny and his friend, guitarist Psycho Pete, played several of their own electronic interpretations of the headliner’s songs in front of 3000 people (the full title of the new album is: Kings of the Wild Frontier: Music for a Future Age). The positive reception their performances received helped convince them to redo the entire thing.

The first track is “Dog Eat Dog” and it’s suitably dramatic, with foreboding electronica adding to the dark, plainly spoken lyrics. Normal’s urgent vocal delivery comes once again to the fore on the swirling “Antmusic,” a bona fide ’80s classic that also featured in the 2015 film Ant-Man.

“Feed Me to the Lions” and “Los Rancheros” remain as catchy as ever and “Ants Invasion” – with its great guitar solo – is a pop tune of immense proportions. Reflecting the tortured genius responsible for these songs, “Killer in the Home” is another trip to the dark side.

The title track is not among my favourites, though the groovy “The Magnificent Five” and the comical “Jolly Roger” are both brilliantly original, reminding the listener just what a huge star Adam Ant was 35 years ago.

Though there are a couple of lacklustre moments, my overriding feeling on listening my way through this unique tribute was one of joy. Normal and Pirroni do a splendid job of furiously updating the original album while remaining true to Ant’s artistic vision. I’m sure he’ll love it.

Kings of the Wild Frontier: Music for a Future Age will be out on June 17.

For more information on Johnny Normal, visit his official website.

For more on Adam Ant, go here.

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