Thanks to a notable scam which got them back into the charts for the first time in 15 years under the assumed name of The Poppy Fields, THE ALARM snagged themselves some sizeable column inches on their re-emergence with the single “45 RPM” in 2004. Against the run of play, their comeback album “In The Poppy Fields” was half-decent too, and went some way in surprising a reviewer who had often guffawed loudly at the band’s bog-brush hairdos and stadium pretensions back in the day.
Hollywood are apparently in the throes of making a movie relating to the Poppy Fields’ scam, so consequently The Alarm’s profile remains enviably high two years later. It’s not been lost on Mike Peters and co, either, as their new album “Under Attack” finds them coming out fighting and picking up from “In The Poppy Fields” more aggressive (and better) moments.
As with “…Poppy Fields” , “Under Attack” springs confidently from the traps with songs like the gritty, riffy “Superchannel”, the defiant “Without A Fight” (full of classic last-gasp Peters rhetoric like “Try to stop me, I will carry on/ try to oppose me, I will prevail”) and the impassioned, hard-edged “My Town”. Indeed, despite myself, it’s difficult not to refer to this latter as a ‘Clash-like’ four-square rocker and it all bludgeons you into the realisation that Peters and his cohorts can still freshly-mint those patented anthemic choruses seemingly at will.
And, like the previous album, “Under Attack” gets you onside quickly and – for a while at least – maintains your interest with a further flurry of crunchy, no-nonsense workouts. In fact, songs like “Raindown” – with its’ choppy, reggae-rock guitars and dramatic atmosphere - the sure-fire live favourite “It’s Alright/ It’s OK” and the SLF-style “Cease And Desist” (hell, Peters even screeches “I’ve gotta getaway!” like Jake Burns) are arguably amongst the best things they’ve done.
Thankfully, too, “Under Attack” avoids the pitfall of desperately attempting the ‘epic’ in the way “In The Poppy Fields” came unstuck with grandiose tosh like “The Rock And Roll” (even the title scares the cack out of you, doesn’t it?) and in fact we’re at track seven (the older and wiser “This Is Life, Get Used To It”) before the acoustic guitars come out. That’s a good thing in the main, though the seemingly endless run of tough rockers begins to sound interchangeable after a while and – OK though they are – tracks like “Something’s Got To Give” and “I Never Left, I Only Went Away” suffer from Peters’ legacy of working with Billy Duffy in Coloursound by basically morphing into The Cult. And, yes, the results are every bit as worrying as that sounds.
Of course this is a Mike Peters record, so expecting electro-pop or East End urchin rock was never exactly on the cards was it? Nonetheless, The Alarm have actually trailblazed a remarkably acceptable new path for themselves and even a derisory old curmudgeon like meself can’t fail to feel a lump forming in the throat when they get to the heartfelt closing tune “This Is The Way We Are”, where – over a Neil Young harmonica waft – Mike turns in a moving paean to “the place that makes me feel I belong”. Blub.
I can still hardly believe I’m typing this, but “Under Attack” really is a credible rock record from a re-energised band, who – to these jaundiced ears – have rarely sounded better. It’s not supposed to happen like this, but it’s difficult not to belatedly embrace The Alarm for sticking this out and pulling off the seemingly impossible by coming back with fire and dignity intact. Respect is due, Mr. Peters.