Always being one to challenge himself and push the boundaries of what is expected of our rock and rollers and having to put up with more than his fair share of hard luck and heartache Peters cannot be killed or derailed by conventional weapons it would seem and goes from strength to strength with each passing year.
A guy who clearly has trouble sleeping and would rather be challenging himself and creating be it writing plays, film scores, albums, tours etc Peters is also unstoppable and regardless of quality in as much as the next album might not be as good as his last one, etc you cannot hold him back nor deter his infectious optimism and love for his craft.
Now I’ll lay my cards out on the table here and state that I’m a bit of an Alarm fanboy and have been for decades and decades and clocked up treble figures for shows attended I’ve got the books the records all the politics. I also am happy to get down off the fence with regards to what period I like the most and if I’m not so keen on a song I’m happy to say it. Oh for the record of course the early years of train station platforms and long bus journeys and lots of hanging around are my fondest memories but I’m not one of the “the original line up is the only line up” brigade because I’m happy to say that I loved the poets and the line up of Adams, Grantley, Stevenson, Peters & Taylor were some of the best shows ever and his earlyish solo albums were awesome as were ‘Under Attack’ period (such a highly productive period) I’ve seen some amazing shows and Gatherings and I can safely say I’ve only ever seen one maybe two under par shows.
Moving onto the new album and whilst I was waiting patiently saving my pennies for the expensive new box set I got a little sidetracked and fell behind on the social media avalanche that sometimes happens from artists and wasn’t sure what was actually happening until I sat down and tried to follow and realised this wasn’t the next album but quickly became something that snowballed and superseded the new album into becoming the newer album – confused? you might be I was. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, ‘War’. I guess lockdown sent some a little loopy and Peters was no exception with all live shows shelved he found himself in a situation that he hadn’t found himself in all his adult life and apart from putting the bins out (Oh I believe he wasn’t sure of what day) he decided to set himself a challenge which evolved into ‘WAR’ A new album written and recorded and released in a matter of weeks! Metallica and Def Lepard look away now. IT couldn’t be done, could it? Pressing plants are bogged up for months with orders? Has Peters built a pressing plant in lockdown? Struck a deal with Old Nick? No, he’s only gone and hand lathed copies hot off the press. Genius! A little expensive for sure but unique and one of a kind. I always have an internal argument with myself when I set a ceiling for how much I’m prepared to pay for my music and always disappoint myself that I have to have it – the kids won’t starve, will they? Oh well, we could all cut down a little and it’s Rock and Roll history being made. Ten songs make up the album and I guess after waffling for the opening few paragraphs I guess it’s time to press play and hear what been cooked up.
The album opens with ‘Protect And Survive’ and as we build up I like it, Raw, vibrant and in your face, with no time to overproduce or use too much technology, it’s where Peters has produced some of his best work over the last few decades. It’s time to take music back to its primitive old-school ways and kick out the jams motherfuckers and this hits the spot. Inspired by what went on in the US in January and that mad day on capitol hill its chaos and compelling moments in time are captured perfectly in the album’s exquisite opener. ‘We Got This’ follows suit with some added acoustic guitar and keyboard stabs but it’s those geetars knocking out the Riffolas that maintains the energy levels.
Maybe, without the time to procrastinate and tinker Peters has taken a brave turn – using songs he’s been working on or finished, and harnessed the urgency of the deadline he’s working towards with great effect. So far after only a handful of plays I can safely say this is the best I’ve heard The Alarm for a few albums. ‘Still Unsafe’ is more laid back and visits themes and lyrical imagery that’s been done by Peters before from day one I guess something he returns to and gets comfort from.
‘Crush’ again turns up the amps and some radio-friendly riffs fall from the speakers and another really enjoyable song burrows into my eardrum. Now I’m not the best at following videos of recording sessions I prefer to wait until a record comes out and then if I like it I’ll revisit the videos (Yeah I know, not how they were intended to be viewed) ‘Warriors’ is uptempo with a bit of synth trickery going on between some impressive riffs that lead to a quality Smiley drum fill before the guitars get stuck in.
‘Fail’ explores a decent melody and I like the Mescaleros breakdowns and I’m sure Strummer would definitely approve and whilst I’m at it he would absolutely approve of this project and the way it was put together. It’s exciting and worthwhile and Peters can hold his head up high and take a little break at least for ‘War’ is a triumph, it’s fresh and bursting with life and energy and most importantly it’s got some of the best work Peters has penned for years.
‘Gods And Demons’ is something of a departure and Peters challenging himself musically and showing you can teach an old dog new tricks. Now the last time I hear Benji Webbe was on the epic Bad Sam song ‘I Love The Port’, I can’t say I ever expected him to rock up on an Alarm album but hey why not? What a collaboration this is and one that could and possibly, no not possibly it should puncture the charts for Rock music. It should draw this album into a whole new world of curious music fans from genres Alarm fans would never have expected to be joined by. ‘Safe From Harm’ is a banger (as the kids say). Pop pickers out there will also notice that it’s a cover of the Massive Attack song and strangely apt for these times we find ourselves living in.
Closing off the album is ‘War (Its Not OVer Yet)’ again another twist of the melon as The band takes on lockdown and the pandemic something we can all relate to wrapped up in a twisted pop song. Now, even though I’ve only played this album a handful of times due to its emergence and the guerilla way it was released – it’s a fantastic triumph and a really strong album full of excellent songs. Ask me in a week what I still think of this album or in a month. I reckon it’ll be on rotation on the RPM death decks and come the summer I’ll be buggin’ my socially distance house guests when I hold a BBQ and tell them the story of this lathe cut album and the story behind it.
The Alarm manage to stay ahead of the pack with an innovative and exciting project that happened and is bloody good to boot – how about that then? Still sticking two fingers up to the haters and penning quality tunes (and covering them) – long live the Alarm and all who play in it.
Pre-order your limited edition and individually hand-painted, signed by Mike Peters’ Exclusively at http://thealarm.com
Author: Dom Daley