June 10, 2020 The Alarm – Hurricane of Change (Album Review)
The sound of The Alarm has always been associated with the explosive and larger-than-life entrance of guitars and drums, anthemic hooks, as well as the over-the-top, powerful voice and lyrical activism of Bandleader Mike Peters. More active than ever in recent years, The Alarm’s latest powerhouse, Hurricane of Change, is slated for release on Friday, June 12th.
Formed in 1981, in Rhyl, Wales, United Kingdom, The Alarm currently consists of Peters, James Stevenson (formerly of Gene Loves Jezebel, Generation X, The Cult) (guitar, bass), Mark Taylor (keyboards, guitar), Peters’ wife Jules Jones (keyboards), and Steve Barnard (drums). In the 1980s the hardworking band catapulted to commercial popularity with the strength of the triumvirate of the albums Strength in 1985, Eye of the Hurricane in 1987, and Change in 1989–led by the hard-rockin’ singles “Absolute Reality,” “Rain in the Summertime,” and “A New South Wales,” all of which have become concert favorites.
Despite various personnel changes, Peters was able to take The Alarm into the competitive Alternative Rock scene in the 1990s onward. Just in the previous decade, The Alarm released five studio albums, the last of which was last year’s Sigma–its 17th offering. And now Peters and the rest of The Alarm are certainly not resting on their sonic laurels, this time unleashing yet another groundbreaking album — a two-part affair consisting of Welsh/Irish Country Rock-rooted songs interspersed with spoken narratives that let the listener dig more deeply into the album’s overall cultural-activism concept.
As stated, a double album, it opens aptly with the dry, barren, countryside lament of “New South Wales”; as Peters’ familiarly raspy voice utters, “For some it really was the end; but for others, it represented the beginning.” The tribal beat of the drums then marches subtly into “New Town Jericho,” reverberating echoes of U2’s 1988 release Rattle & Hum. Then stomping lightly and flawlessly next is “The Ghosts of Rebecca.” Another beauty then pulsates thereafter–the inspired angularity of the piano-embellished “The Ballad of Randolph Turpin,” the youthful vibes of which will fit it onto a playlist that includes Tommy Conwell & the Young Rumblers’ “I’m Seventeen.” Following next in the same heartbeat is “Irish Sea,” only to mellow down with the short, acoustic ode “My Land Your Land.”
The Alarm then shifts the gear higher once again with the driving grate of “Hallowed Ground,” and then maintains the energy until the ensuing “Eye of the Hurricane.” Another acoustic bit follows next in the form of “A Rose beyond the Wall” and then the harmonica-laden Blues Rock “Shelter” and laidback, Gospel-tinged renditions of “Rescue Me” and “Rain in the Summertime” come next in succession.
After the mild stompers “Only Love Can Set Me Free” and “Permanence in Change,” The Alarm delivers again unplugged melodrama, with “World on Fire,” “Presence of Love,” and “A Time to Believe.” One last upbeat highlight–“One Step Closer to Home”–and then Peters and his comrades then wrap up the first part of Hurricane of Change with the tribute track “Elders and Folklore.”
The second part of Hurricane of Change starts with the gradual rolling and cascading buildup of “Where a Town Once Stood.” This is then followed by the Post-Punk urgency of “New Frontiers,” the Classic Rock punch of “Hardland,” and Pub Rock drama of “The Firing Line.”
A trek back to memory lane then occurs with “Change II.” The heartrending nostalgia continues with “Corridors of Power.” As the album further spins–“How the Mighty Fall”–Peters is all the more sounding like his fellow world activist Bono of U2, and this is a compliment.
The rockier part of Hurricane of Change is unleashed through “Sold Me Down the River.” “Breaking Point” then returns the listener to a quiet moment in a shadow-blanketed corner of inspired music. The big sound of The Alarm has indeed gone upstream with “Prison Without Prison Bars,” “Scarlet,” “Devolution Working Man Blues,” and “Love Don’t Come Easy.”
The pendulum sensibility then swings sweetly with “The Rock.” And then the following “Rivers to Cross” has that Irish-Celtic, bagpipe-reminiscent flavor to it, harking back to Peters’ short-lived, one-album-off participation in Big Country’s return in 2013.
The penultimate track, “Change I” then whips its hypnotic rhythm and ominous melody. Finally, Peters and company fittingly closes their ambitious new record with the impassioned, horn-adorned spiritual plea of “A New Day.”
Because of his active involvement in the world’s political and environmental issues, Peters was able to secure the place of The Alarm in the pantheon of Alternative Rock greats such as U2 (“Beautiful Day”), Midnight Oil (“Beds Are Burning”), Morrissey (“I Am Not a Dog on a Chain”), R.E.M. (“Losing My Religion”), and Big Country (“Another Country”).
The sonic beauty and lyrical relevance of the seemingly documentary Hurricane of Change are a spark of positivity in these turbulent times. That is why Cryptic Rock gives it 4 out of 5 stars.