Revolutions may come and go, but the Adicts are apparently eternal. The band's odes to sex, droogs and rock 'n roll first surfaced at a time when punk-rock bands scarcely imagined staying together for three years, much less three decades.
But now, 30 years after the release of their debut album and its signature hit "Viva la Revolution," the Adicts hold the distinction of being the longest-running act in punk-rock history. Combining the base instincts of punk with the more theatrical elements of glam-rock, what started as a recreational activity for three working-class kids from Ipswich, England, has steadily evolved into a post-punk institution.
Laughing on the outside but smirking on the inside, the Adicts possess a somewhat jaundiced world view that never stands in the way of a good time. The last verse of "Viva" says it best: "Dance in the streets at the carnival / Celebrate the victory now / Drink the wine from the rich man's cask / This revolution won't be the last."
"I think the political aspect of our music has always been somewhat tongue-in-cheek," says frontman Keith "Monkey" Warren when asked how the author of "Viva la Revolution" feels about the current wave of insurrections in the Middle East. "To me that song has always been about enjoying the moment, that initial euphoria of a revolution when you think everything is going to change. And oftentimes it doesn't. But there's this one bright shining moment when you think everything's gonna be better forever."
Sort of like the way you feel at age 19?
"Yeah, something like that," allows Warren. "If it could be like that forever, then we'd all be fine. We probably wouldn't make it to 30, but otherwise we'd be fine."
Along with boyhood pals Pete Davison on guitar and brother Michael "Kid" Davison on drums, Warren has lingered at the margins of post-punk culture long enough to exert an influence on bands ranging from Art Brut to Blur.
"I was also told that on Lady Gaga's early Facebook page she cited the Adicts as a favorite band as well," says an amused Warren.
In the case of Gaga, it's hard to see much of a connection. But Blur clearly shares the Adicts' affection for the wry sensibility of the Kinks' Ray Davies. They're also both fans of Stanley Kubrick's highly stylized A Clockwork Orange, as evidenced by Blur's video for "The Universal" and the Adicts' predilection for white suits, black boots and bowler hats.
"We've obviously taken a lot from the movie as far as the image goes, and we still refer to the movie and its language in our lyrics now and again," says Warren of the film that chronicled the ultra-violent adventures of Alex DeLarge and his gang of malevolent young "droogs." "But personally, it didn't influence me greatly to want to go out and beat people up or anything like that."
In fact, the singer hadn't even seen A Clockwork Orange when the Adicts began life as Afterbirth & the Pinz, a colorful name they reluctantly abandoned for children's TV appearances as the Fun Adicts. In those days, Warren was still working at the local brewery where his father earned a living making deliveries, after which he'd hitch rides to nearby Colchester in order to see first-wave punk bands like Siouxsie & the Banshees and X-Ray Spex. He nearly got to see the Sex Pistols, he says, when a friend got word of an unannounced gig the band was playing the next day at a university near London.
"It was a secret show, so obviously I told everybody," recalls Warren. "And they all went and forgot to take me! Everyone thought someone else was picking me up, so they got to go see the Sex Pistols and I never did."
Welly, welly, well!
As the Adicts came into their own, their music would end up mirroring the more post-punk inclinations of bands like the Buzzcocks and Big Audio Dynamite. (The latter group's influence is particularly evident on Smart Alex, an album that includes the Adicts' rousing version of Marlene Dietrich's "Falling in Love Again.") While part-time punks flocked to Kings Road shops to purchase their identities at premium prices, the Adicts frontman was always more interested in creating his own flamboyant DIY aesthetic.
"We were all into glam rock — Mott the Hoople and Bowie, Cockney Rebel, T. Rex, the whole theatrical side of pop — and I think that's where we got our love for not just being a band, but putting on a show," he explains. "To me, it was a lot of fun just to be able to experiment with yourself, you know, be your own canvas."
Counting live albums and compilations, Warren figures his band has gone on to average one album every two years for the past three decades. The most recent, Life Goes On, actually contains some of their best songs to date.
There's the Mott-style anthem, "We Ain't Got a Say," which rails against politicians, religion, corruption, corporations, global warming, pollution, racism, nationalism, fundamentalism, terrorism and television before reaching the unexpectedly optimistic conclusion, "We all got a say."
And lest we assume the Adicts have gotten earnest in their old age, there's the absurdly catchy "Reaky Deaky Boys & Girls," which sounds like some Oi! band's idea of a schoolyard chant. The song ends with that creepiest of Clockwork Orange expressions, "Welly, welly, well!" But as for the rest of it — "Something borrowed, something blue / Why not try something new / I love to see the young narflers / Do the bossa nova and fall over" — who can say?
"Not my lyric!" pleads the singer with obvious delight. "That's our drummer, Kid. I don't think even he knows what it's about. It just sounded good."
Which, the way Warren sees it, is pretty much what it's all about.
"Like any family, we have our ups and downs. But ultimately it's the family, or the band, that's most important to us all. And we just strive to keep that together and to keep enjoying it, really. There's no point to it otherwise."