ALBUM REVIEW: The Alarm – Sigma (Twenty First Century Recording Company)
Like many people, I first heard The Alarm back in 1983 when they released the excellent single Sixty Eight Guns.
Little did I realise that 36 years later they – or more precisely frontman Mike Peters – would still be producing music this good.
The band’s original incarnation lasted 10 years, splitting in 1991, but Peters – the sole survivor from that line-up – has been releasing new music under The Alarm name since 1999.
He knows all about being a survivor, not just musically; he’s twice battled leukaemia, and at the age of 60 is enjoying a creative resurgence which is producing songs every bit as good as in his heyday.
This album is the sequel to Equals, released a year and a day earlier, which saw The Alarm back in the charts for the first time in 27 years.
A retrenchment of the band’s original values, it was also a poignant reflection of the tough times Peters has had to contend with in recent years.
It received the band’s best reviews in years, and Sigma is basically the second half of what was originally intended to be a double album.
Over 12 tracks, Peters, wife Jules on keyboards, James Stevenson on guitar and bass and ‘Smiley’ Barnard on drums pick up where Equals left off.
Blood Red Viral Black, with The Cult’s Billy Duffy on guitar, is a rousing opener, and Brighter Than The Sun is classic Alarm, gently brooding before bursting into typically-bombastic life.
Time reflects on the fragility of the human condition: “This is your life, these are your days, so make them the best you can, while you’ve still got time”.
Original guitarist Dave Sharp makes a guest appearance on the title track, while Peters pays tribute to his wife, who has herself beaten breast cancer, on the Beatles-influenced Heroine.
He shows he’s comfortable referencing his band’s past, with glimpses of 1985 single Strength on the impressive Love And Understanding, while standout track Armageddon In The Morning borrows even more blatantly from another old favourite, Blaze Of Glory.
The album ends with Two Rivers (Reprise), revisiting one of the highlights of Equals, but in a very different form indeed, with Peters accompanied by some plaintive piano.
The Alarm are back, and it’s like they’ve never been away. 8/10.