Punk is a revolutionary art form, but it seems that many bands in the genre are content to build upon legacies rather than produce work that’s wholly new and original. As a result, the last 40 years has seen measured change in punk rock as opposed to abrupt shifts in the genre’s style. But in the late ’70s, one band defied convention. They were called The Adicts.
These Suffolk punks formed in late 1977 after two years of playing under different names. Much like the Sex Pistols and The Clash, The Adicts fell in love with London’s rebellious fashion, but while Johnny Rotten and Joe Strummer had the boutiques of Kings Road literally on their doorstep, The Adicts had to make do with whatever they could salvage from Ipswich’s second hand shops. This in fact forced the band to be more creative when it came to establishing their image.
As black became the mode towards the late seventies, The Adicts sort the opportunity to invert the trend and dress all in white. The look itself was adopted from the ‘droogs’ in Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange. While the musicians of The Adicts sported white shirts, white trousers and black bowler hats, lead singer Keith ‘Monkey’ Warren went one step further, painting his face like the Joker from a deck of cards and wearing flamboyant suits.
With this outrageous aesthetic in place, The Adicts hit the indie charts in a puff of white smoke and released their debut album Songs of Praise in 1981. At that time the punk scene was becoming increasingly austere with regards to its lyrical content. Bands like Discharge and Crass were fervently serious with their politics, leaving little room for satirical, subtle or funny lyrics. Songs of Praise doesn’t conform to punk’s established reputation as the angry music of anarchy, a decision by the band which is in itself anarchic. While other bands were creating music that was abrasive and badly recorded, The Adicts opted for clearer production without sacrificing any of punk’s youthful energy.
That isn’t to say that Songs of Praise ignores political issues. The sense of social instability and class war in early ’80s Britain is reflected in tracks like album opener England. The first line paints a clear message, “I hate this war, can’t take any more”. But Mel ‘Spider’ Ellis’ bouncy bass lines and Pete ‘Pete Dee’ Davison’s playful guitar riffs pull a softer punch than the lyrics suggest. The uplifting delivery of the is as unexpected as their stage costumes. Similarly, the album’s stand out track and The Adicts most revered gift to music, Viva La Revolution, is a call to arms delivered with a grin.
Today, The Adicts remain as unique as ever, showering venues worldwide with confetti and beach balls. Their basic premise is to take the negative hits life dishes out and turn them into positives. Take Calling Calling, for example: “Why do you have to be afraid, I know things are bad, we can make them good”.
While Songs of Praise is undeniably a punk record, it laid the groundwork for a band to forge their own path in rock ’n’ roll history.
For more information on The Adicts, visit their official site.