Sometimes context illuminates all. When Adam Ant emblazoned himself on American pop music in 1981, it was as a swashbuckling rocker in rouged cheeks and pirate dress. With the exception of the tribal anthem Antmusic, the group's first U.S. album release (Kings of the Wild Frontier) amounted to a lot of shameless chest thumping and borrowing from miscellaneous rock genres. The genius, as is often the case with rock, was all in the look. In 1982 Adam ditched the Ants and released a solo album that was surprisingly intriguing, fresh and strong. Dirk Wears White Sox is actually the 1979 British debut album that preceded Kings of the Wild Frontier, and was made with different personnel. Three of those founding Ants later formed Bow Wow Wow, and a fourth is now drumming with Culture Club. Dirk is an exciting, adventurous album, with stylistic links to Captain Beef heart (on the track Digital Tenderness) and the compelling grotesqueries of late Beatles and early solo Lennon work (Nine Plan Failed), among other things. It ranges from the merry dementia of Animals and Men to the blues stagger of Family of Noise, with its loopy guitar signature introducing each chorus. Throughout, the bass and guitar work is inventive, as are the songs and arrangements, all from Adam's own anthill. In an uncharacteristically sentimental note on the inner sleeve, he writes that the years 1976 to 1979, when he was creating this music, "have always been very dear to my heart." It's easy to see why.