Mr. Mixtape-ptlk, Track #2: "Ants Invasion" by Adam and the Ants (1980)

For the second pick on my new Halloween mix, a personal war of miniature but gradually expanding scale has played a crucial part in its selection.

Over the course of the past couple of months, our household has been doing battle with little black ants. We had some invade the home last year, but it was because we were trying to save up recyclable bottles and cans in containers outside. When the containers filled up, and we weren't able to get to the recycling plant in a timely fashion, we started filling up garbage bags and had them outside. We hadn't seen many ants before then, but we sure saw them after that. The ants in the garden and in the yard found the cans and went nuts. Their line to the cans then extended to the house, and up the wall, and somehow found a way into the house. They came in through the bathroom in the master bedroom where Jen and I make our home, and we then started learning about doing battle with ants on a large scale. The invasion was very brief, however, and done as quick as it had started.

Not so this year. A few weeks ago, we discovered their latest incursion onto our territory, and the war commenced anew. This time, they attacked my office bathroom, Ben's rooms, and the master bedroom in seemingly separate groupings. Jen managed to dispatch a queen, which was under my sink in the en-suite in the master, and I thought that I had stopped the minor invasion of the office bathroom. Then, a couple days later, we found out that they were in the hallways and scattered all along the outer edges of the huge library area. We attacked with poison and cleaners and thought we then had it handled... until we found out the next day that they had moved downstairs and had completely surrounded the living room and kitchen areas. Three of us tackled that project, taking out every ant we could see and trying to determine their points of ingress, blocking those by laying down ant poison.

All seemed well until three days ago, when I went into my office and found a few ants on the wall behind my desk. Just four or five, and after cutting off what I thought were there paths to the area, I discovered about a day later that they seemed to be sneaking through the electrical outlet. So, I wiped down a solid area around the base of the outlet (and the others in the room) with a poison solution and I stopped seeing them on the walls after that. I then threw down talcum powder and vacuumed up the floor to get up anything that might draw their interest (there was no food in the room otherwise). 

Two mornings ago, while planning to get up bright and early for a writing session, I was greeted by about thirty ants or so all over my nice new desk area. While we have been exceedingly careful to not leave food and empty containers lying about in the house since this whole debacle started, I had left an empty soda can on the desk and, boy, they had zeroed right in and found it. 

Determining exactly where the little suckers were coming from was another matter. Looking at the floor that I had just cleaned the night before, I found that I could see parts of it moving. The ants had given up their usual line formations to their targets, and seemed to be spread out across the carpet running willy-nilly to anything that looked like a way up to whatever they perceived to be of interest to them. And so my morning was shot, as I looked everywhere I could in the room to figure out exactly where they were coming from and what they were after in the office. 

Meanwhile, Jen found ants in our walk-in closet, a room that has zero of interest to them whatsoever. No food or drink has ever been brought into there, but there they were, avoiding the areas that had been sprayed to prevent their lines and had them marching right in the middle of the floor in a guerrilla attack. To what? Who knows? But it has meant even more cleaning and more searching for a thousand points where their tiny little bodies can easily slip in to annoy us.

That's the thing: these aren't bitey ants. These are little suckers, almost cute due to their diminutive status, and if they get on you, they pretty much tickle and don't hurt you at all. It actually makes me feel bad to kill them, but honestly, you also don't want bugs crawling all over you, if you can help it. And while they don't bite, there is still a definite creepiness factor to the whole thing. Since this battle started, one song has been going through my mind... Ants Invasion by Adam and the Ants.

Here is his band's performance of the song in their heyday on The Old Grey Whistle Test TV show:



"Ten-thirty-five and I hope I've made
The right decision
[No, no, no, no, no, no]
Heart is beating I'm alive
But I don't call this living
[No, no, no, no, no, no]
Rationalize 'til I'm blue in the face
You cannot lose if you throw the race
I'm still searching for the
Ants invasion

Ten-thirty-six and I hope I've made
The right decision
[No, no, no, no, no, no]
Ninety-eight point four's the bore
With twenty/twenty vision
[No, no, no, no, no, no]
You want a thrill so you come and see me
A cheap line in fantasy
But I'm still searching for the
Ants invasion

If I'd the courage
I would make my way home
Too many antics in the forbidden zone

Ten-thirty-eight and I think I've made
The wrong decision
Another lifeless man with a strange incision
I hope that insect doesn't see me
He's not renowned for his courtesy
I'm not searching for the
Ants invasion"

The song kicks to life with a siren-like guitar riff that would be at home equally as the theme song to any science fiction movie, laden with an invasion of ants or otherwise. The lyrics get good mileage out of the repeated variations of quoting the advancing time and then wondering if Adam has made the right or wrong decision. The progression allows a story to build gradually, which sketches in horror story details of a man who seems to bear a Kafka-esque dread of his own nature.

While never really being very clear about what the true subject of his concern is outside of the refrain of "still searching for the ants invasion," Adam makes reference to his "heart is beating, I'm alive/but I don't call this living," and then later he describes "another lifeless man with a strange incision," which at that point, late in the game (it's 10:38 by then) he determines it to have been "the wrong decision". Before that he mentions "ninety-eight point four's the bore with twenty/twenty vision," which along with the line in the previous verse, "You cannot lose if you throw the race," might point to the source of his fear being human conformity.

I had always felt when I was younger that the "Ants Invasion" he is searching for is the success of his own tribe, those that make "antmusic" (the band is "the Ants," after all). The new subgenre of "antmusic" was supposed to be his gospel. In another song on his Kings of the Wild Frontier LP, Don't Be Square (Be There), Adam Ant cajoles his new faithful to "Get off your knees and hear the insect prayer!" (which, of course, is "Dirk Wears White Sox," the name of the very first Adam and the Ants album and a tribute reference to actor Dirk Bogarde). 

But, battling against this notion, I was always confused by the last two lines after the "incision" line in Ants Invasion: "I hope that insect doesn't see me/He's not renowned for his courtesy/I'm not searching for the ants invasion." It may rub against my theory of fear of human conformity, or maybe this story takes place before Adam is resurrected as the leader of the Ants, where he is fearful of his transformation into the force he will become.

Regardless, the horror/sci-fi trappings of the song are clear, but they were even more clear in the song's original incarnation. Once upon a time, it was even more eerie in a musical sense, though the melody was the same and the song structure still including the gimmick of counting up the time as it passed. But the song's title? Oh boy, is that a doozy (and I kid you not): The Omelette from Outer Space.

A demo version of Omelette appears on the remastered version of Kings of the Wild Frontier, but luckily, somebody took the footage from the video earlier in this post and made their own video for The Omelette from Outer Space. It's pretty sloppy and low-res, but you can at least hear the song:



"10:35 and I hope I made the right decision
[No, no, no, no, no, no]
Evening drawing in, so I'm forced to watch the television
[No, no, no, no, no, no]
The could-be actor, cover his face
[Pow pow pow]
I'd do the same thing in his place
[Pow pow pow]
He's so frightened of 
The omelette from outer space
[No, no, no, no, no, no]

10:36 and I hope I made the right decision
[No, no, no, no, no, no]
Another lifeless man with a strange incision
[No, no, no, no, no, no]
The screaming stopped but the core is a waste
[Pow pow pow]
Bring out detectives to solve the case
[Pow pow pow]
And I'm still searching for
The omelette from outer space
[No, no, no, no, no, no]

If I'd the courage I would go to the gate
Another thriller or a great escape

10:38 and I think I've made the wrong decision
[No, no, no, no, no, no]
They've had complete success with their alien mission
[No, no, no, no, no, no]
The could-be actor, cover his face
[Pow pow pow]
I'd do the same thing in his place
[Pow pow pow]
They're so frightened of 
The omelette from outer space
[No, no, no, no, no, no]
Outer space
[No, no, no, no, no, no]"

Lyrically, I don't find the demo version nearly as interesting as Ants Invasion. However, the part with the omelette from outer space is actually a bit intriguing, since it is pretty apparent that Adam is referring to the actor within the film in the song and his reactions to the silly monster that probably shares a name with the title of the film, and which Adam is forced to watch on his TV. In fact, the original version keeps the song within the horror/sci-fi music subgenre, but just from a different angle, becoming more of a comment on the insipidness of pop culture than anything else. Not nearly as creepy sounding and terrific a song as Ants Invasion, but still a fun early try at such a tune.

That's all for Track #2. I will post Track #3 of Mr. Mixtape-ptlk in a few days. Until then, happy Counting Down to Halloween!

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