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Band sounds the Alarm on new changes
By JED GOTTLIEB |
June 19, 2020 at 6:12 a.m.
The Alarm captured the moment in the title of its 1989 album, “Change.” Simple, clear and true, the title addressed a band struggling to stay together and a world witnessing the tearing down of physical and metaphorical walls. Now Alarm singer/songwriter/frontman Mike Peters sees new walls being erected.
“As we got into 2019, I saw that things were changing again,” Peters said from his home in Wales. “A new president in America, Brexit happening over here, and we were closing borders that we opened in 1989. Thirty years later, I had a great premise to retell the band’s story against a similar backdrop.”
Peters has reworked songs from 1987’s “Eye of the Hurricane” and “Change” — the Alarm LPs featuring the Welsh group’s biggest international hits including “Rain in the Summertime” and “Sold Me Down the River.” On new double album “Stream — Hurricane of Change,” he intersperses new versions of the songs with narration reflecting on the conflicts within the band.
“When we were working on those records I didn’t see a connection from one song to the next,” he said. “But ‘Hurricane’ was about weathering a storm as a band, (live album) ‘Electric Folklore,’ which of course was recorded in Boston (at the Wang Center in ’88), is the sound of us bonding again as band, then ‘Change’ came with the Berlin Wall coming down, Europe changing and freedom of movement coming in.”
By then, Boston had fallen in love with the Alarm — the band played the Orpheum back in ’85 (then-WBCN DJ Carter Alan introduced the lads on a live broadcast of the show). A large swath of America fell hard too but the guys never became superstars. Instead, Peters and crew grew into a cult band with a fan base very protective of the Alarm’s catalog.
Peters has added classic and contemporary twists to the reimagined tracks on “Stream — Hurricane of Change.” “Rescue Me,” once a sprint, unfolds slowly, letting a rustic rock sound build steam — this version wouldn’t be out of place on U2’s “Rattle & Hum” or a new Avett Brothers record. The old “Permanence in Change” comes straight out of the band’s Clash-meets-Woody Guthrie aesthetic; the fresh one could be the Strokes or a B-side from the 1975’s “Notes on a Conditional Form.”
If that change wasn’t enough, Peters toured the material as a solo act last year, banging out these songs on a guitar while stomping on some drums (hopefully, the canceled April Wang Theatre date will be rescheduled for 2021).
“At first, I thought, ‘This will be tough to play this live,’ but it turned out to be quite the opposite,” he said. “The audience seems quite spellbound by it, and some have come for multiple shows. You get the odd person who says, ‘I thought I would hear it like I heard it on the radio.’ But they are the kind of passer-by fans, and they have the right to see any gig we might play. But there’s also a time for playing for an audience that wants to go deep and that’s what this is.”
The Alarm has rereleased many of its early albums — “And people can always hear the version they love,” Peters said. But instead of another reissue to celebrate an anniversary, Peters has commemorated 30 years of “Hurricane” and “Change” with a personal deconstruction (and sonic reconstruction) of his past.
“They needed to be relevant again,” Peters said. “Relevant and personal.”