So another record of new(ish) music from Mike Peters and his new version of the Alarm hits the shops this week with a little help from a few of the people in his very impressive address book. The album is connected to last years album that came out in two parts. Confused you will be. If you think you’ve heard some of these before then you’d be right as they’ve been around for a while and avid Alarm disciples will have heard a lot of these over the last few years.
Life isn’t as simple as a band writing enough songs for a record. They can write and record quickly and release music almost straight away through the many available platforms that now exist. The MPO has always (since the original Alarm ceased to exist post Brixton) been ahead of the curve as far as independent cottage industries go. A personal touch that was different and exciting and it certainly helped keep in touch with the fan base, that hardcore that was always loyal to team Peters. Today the MPO is a different beast altogether they’ve certainly grown and become a well-oiled machine and through sheer hard work have grown the Alarm name and managed to keep it relevant in an ever-changing industry.
Influenced by his well documented off-field tribulations Peters is a force of nature and his pursuit of making music is enduring and endearing – his passion for his art is second to none and has evolved as a writer, kept a few musicians close and having such talented players like Smiley and James Stevenson by his side Peters is still able to pen some really impressive Rock and Roll (although I do think the sound lack that punch that Craig Adams always brought to proceedings live and on record).
I’m glad Peters still writes new material but have to admit to not always being keen on his latter work I do own every single release he’s ever put out so I always find it difficult to write a review for an Alarm record, a band I’ve seen in many guises (well into triple numbers over the years). Call me a fanboy (I’m not bothered but can a guy in his 50s be a fanboy?) I can also admit when I find some of his lyric wordy and a bit cliched whilst at other times I find his lyrics uplifting and beautiful – warm and sincere. At the end of the day he’s human and it would be a little odd if I liked everything he ever wrote and he got it right every time.
Well, ‘Sigma’ kicks off in fine fashion with ‘Blood Red Viral Black’ which features fellow coloursound comrade Billy Duffy (of the Cult parish) The song is a good opener and certainly benefits from Duffy’s fretwork (I wish he’d write more song in this vein) I loved Coloursound and it worked really well.
Always dogged by the poundshop U2 tag something that really used to bug me, but, as I’ve got older there are certainly elements of Peters songwriting where their paths do cross. maybe ‘Brighter Than The Sun’ would be one such tune. ‘Time’ is classic modern Alarm and uses the familiar bass line that he got a lot of success with on songs like ‘Rain In The SummerTime’. ‘Psalms’ begins with a simple ‘Stand By Me’ guitar strum on the acoustic and builds gently.
‘Equals’ has a guest spot from original Alarm member Dave Sharp that will please some. Then ‘Love and Understanding’ which sound familiar like ‘Strength’ for the Jet Age. Is self-plagiarism a thing? I do like ‘Prisoners’ and first impressions are it’s a little different.
As far as love songs go ‘Heroine’ is Peters hitting paydirt with some of his better lyrics and the way the song builds is excellent and its a song I’ve always liked. It sounds sincere and is one of the records shining lights.
Before the album signs off with ‘Two Rivers’, ‘Armageddon In The Morning’ is a bit of a throwback to Peters and his Poets days its a seven-minute journey that builds well and the acoustic and harmonica works really well with smileys rhythm. Again Peters touches on moments throughout his history (intentional or not but you can deffo sing ‘Blaze Of Glory’ over parts) and this one works really well and makes for a great song as it passes quickly.
‘Two Rivers’ is stripped back to piano-driven reprise, fans who’ve seen the band live will be familiar with this set closer but not in this form an excellent way to sign off ‘Sigma’.
I’m not sure how many new fans will buy into ‘Sigma’ and being so familiar with a lot of the songs I find it hard to call as a whole new new record (if you know what I mean) I guess ‘Sigma’ is the final part of a several year journey for The Peters family and something they found themselves working through.
I still believe and still wish all the best for The Alarm and would love them to grab some headlines for their music and work their way into a larger audiences heart, they still have the talent and that unwavering belief in what they do and I fully support that they’re not some nostalgia trip – they’re not one of those has been bands who can’t let go. They make new music and by and large deliver time after time after time. Doing things their way against the odds in the face of adversity that would have sunk most mortals.
Buy ‘Sigma’ and start a voyage of discovery and don’t be put off by the size of the back catalogue because there is so much on offer that is right up there with the best of em. Go the Alarm
Buy Sigma Here
Author: Dom Daley