Picks and Pans Review: Manners & Physique

updated 03/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Adam Ant

Remember Adam Ant? He was one of those clever lads who at the beginning of the '80s rode the novelty of MTV to brief, bright reknown with videos like "Goody Two Shoes" that combined his eye-catching buccaneer image with ear-catching music built on primitive tom-tom drum swells.

On his first release in five years, Ant makes a stab at recapturing that distinctive sound on "U.S.S.A." It's a staggering failure, but it comes across like sheer genius compared to the rest of the songs on this misguided mess. Ant's avowed intent was to explore the Minneapolis R&B style founded by Prince, so he enrolled producer André Cymone. If their partnership was a marriage, it would be annulled before the honeymoon. If it was a chemistry experiment, it would blow up the lab.

Songs like "Room at the Top" bring out the worst in both collaborators. Cymone's funky production style, which has single-handedly dignified Jody Watley as a singer, is reduced to clattery noise. Ant's voice is uninflected and vacuous. When he is called upon to carry "If You Keep On," a song written by Ant with Kevin Rowland of Dexy's Midnight Runners, it becomes apparent that Ant belongs to the merry band of English pop singers, like Mick Jones of Big Audio Dynamite or Philip Oakley of Human League, who can carry a tune but not very far. The most flattering comment is that the album's title track has a grabby chorus. Otherwise, it's boos and raspberries to everyone involved. (MCA)

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