The Alarm MMVI - Under Attack
Tim Miller 20/02/2006
Although not knowing my Roman numerals off by heart, I would make a logical guess that MMVI means 2006. Because, for those of you like me that didn't know, The Alarm aren't pessimistically giving their career one year to live (although after this offering, they might) but are, in fact, back with new material to follow their first single since the '80s.
In 2004, The Alarm released their first single for 15 years, but, the young scamps, did so under a moniker making out they were a new teenage band called The Poppyfields. After that single was so successful, and the truth came out, The Alarm were re-signed by EMI to release their album 'Under Attack'.
That the last time The Alarm were in the charts was way back in '89 shows on this album. Before it's even started, some of the dubious song titles jump out in apprehensive foreboding: My Town, It's Alright/It's Ok, This is Life Get Used to It and Something's Got To Give sound straight off the back of Ashlee Simpson's album. Superchannel starts the album with a Darkness style riff, and the chorus offers something akin to the heights of Status Quo anthems. Exactly the same can be said for Without A Fight, though neither of the songs have anything like the appeal or longevity of real 80s rock Gods. And the lyrics? “I still bleed when I get cut/I still get called things that I'm not”. Inspired.
The Alarm seem to have taken U2's 21st century rise and rise to heart, as the harmless progressions through major chord rock songs continue on the weak, weak My Town. Things haven't changed in The Alarm's town, which may be why their music doesn't seem to have gauged the state of the industry today. Raindown changes the mood a little, giving vocalist Mike Peters a chance to confirm just how like Bono he can sing. Peters, who won a lifetime achievement award at the Welsh Music Awards (!!!) approaches each song mimicking the impassioned soaring tones of the U2 singer, not least on It's Alright/It's Ok's “oh-woah” in the chorus, and then Be Still, which as a song sounds as though it's lifted straight from U2's Joshua Tree. The comparisons to U2 end there though. Certainly, the musicality of The Alarm's songs doesn't shimmer with the same time-standing quality, instead meeting the standard only of a decent U2 cover band.
There's more U2 bashing on This is Life Get Used to It, and then an astonishing three-chord punk effort that pays considerable homage to Greenday. Peters this time sings the title lyric Cease and Desist as though he's Johnny Rotten, pronouncing Cease 'Sayse' like the obnoxious ruffian he isn't. And by this stage, it's only been a gruelling 8 tracks of the 13 there are to hear.
Something's Got to Give gets a bit heavier, but clings desperately to the same tired stadium rock format, so does Few ands Far Between and….you get the picture.
This album has been like listening to a U2 cover band, except they've gone and upset the rules and said “and now we're just gonna play one of our own songs” and the crowd's like 'Fine we'll let you as long as you finish with Where The Streets Have No Name'. Sadly, The Alarm 2006 have no Where The Streets Have No Name to offer, only simplistic and derivative stadium rock. They may well be back with their first single as The Alarm for 17 years, but it's hard to see the album prolonging their career any further.