Has there ever been a band that you loved and then suddenly stopped paying attention to any new releases? The Alarm was that for me. I followed them throughout the 80’s and after 1989’s album ‘Change’, just stopped listening to new stuff. No reason, just stopped. It is strange and I can’t figure out why.
So when I saw they had a new album being released, something told me to listen to it. Now if I wasn’t doing this blog, would I have cared or paid attention? I can’t answer that, but the thing is I did pay attention and I did listen to their new release this time. And I am hear to tell you I am so glad I did.
Now Mike Peters is the only original member still in the band and usually that would bother me, but Mike was always my draw anyway. I loved his vocals, his delivery and his style and with him still at the mic, I am still getting what I liked.
From the first notes of the opening track, “Two Rivers”, there was a familiarity to it with the minor exceptions of some electronica sounds which I don’t recall the band ever doing. However, that was a minor distraction. Mike Peters sounded amazing and he hadn’t lost anything which is amazing considering he has been around singing since the late 70’s.
Then came “Beautiful” and the band sounded almost happy which is new as well, but the song still resonated The Alarm sound. I imagine Mike is feeling good after battling chronic lymphocytic leukemia a second time and coming out on top again. That could easily produce a song as great as this where everything is beautiful.
And when I got the third track, “Coming Backwards (with Billy Duffy)”, it was filled with the punch of old and reminded me more of what I have always loved about the band. It is amazing how in three short songs, my love and excitement about The Alarm had returned in full force. I have since devoured this album over and over and the back catalog that I have missed has been added to my library and I am now exploring what I might have missed and apparently I have missed a lot.
And if that wasn’t enough, the song “Peace Now” took me even further over the edge. The Alarm has also had some social commentary in their albums and they have done them in such a way that made it interesting and made you take notice. And they used the harmonica in grand affect in the past and was part of their signature sound for me. That had been missing so far on this album until this song and that is when I lost my shit. At the build up of the chorus at a little over 2 minutes into the song, Mike whipped out the harmonica and I was taken back to the 80’s Alarm. It was over for me at this point there was no going back to not listening to The Alarm.
There were several other songs that I thought were amazing, the acoustic opening of “Crowd Trouble” that exploded into a rocker with the chorus then back to acoustic for the next verse before just rocking out the remainder of the song. Brilliant. “Hell Fire” brings us a heavier, almost slight industrial sound that is a nice change of pace and gives us some variety which is always appreciated.
The electronica sound was also used on the sensational “Thirteen Dead Reindeer” which is a single off the album. It too only enhanced their sound and didn’t take away from anything. I am actually digging how they incorporating the electronica sound as they did it again on “Neutral”. There can be a place for it in rock if used correctly and they are doing just that.
“Neutral” is another little rocker that I thought was strong. Along with the politically charged “Cenotaph” both songs seem to be discussing the issues with the world and the constant possibility of another big war taking place. It is the social commentary they have always had, but turned into great songs and not preachy.
The final track on the album is “Tomorrow” and it is another great, upbeat track that catches you singing along with “Whatever you think you are today, you can’t be tomorrow”. The album starts off on a high note and ends on one too.
The only track that was negative for me was “Transatlantic”. I never connected to that one as it seemed a little flat and didn’t have the heart or feel of the rest of the album. Not bad though, only one track that I would delete.
What is amazing about this album is the ability to take me back to their earlier albums of “Declaration” and “Strength” yet not make the songs dated. They threw those little nuggets to remind you of days of old (cue harmonica), yet they are fully entrenched in today’s sound with the electronica elements. It was really a masterful collection of songs.
The album has only the one song to delete so it gets a 91% on the Track Score (10 keepers out of 11 tracks). And the overall score for the quality of the songs and the overall album is a 4.5 out 5 stars. If this is what I have been missing out on over the years, I can’t wait to absorb the albums I missed. If you were ever a fan of the band from the 80’s, you have to revisit this band now and you won’t be disappointed. Mike Peters has found a new joy and passion for music and it is obvious in the collection of songs he has released. Great job!!