Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The Alarm


Back in 1984 there wasn't much going on musically. My best mate liked The Smiths, but for some reason I didn't get into them; even now they don't move me like they do loads of other people. Meanwhile I liked the emerging Jesus And Mary Chain, and Mick Jones' Big Audio Dynamite. We were both listening to Prince and the Style Council. A mate of ours played us the first album by The Alarm, Declaration. We'd really liked their single 68 Guns and we fell for the album.

I liked them for about 3 years then left them behind, never to listen again until about 5 years ago. Don't know what happened. I have some idea that they seemed too simplistic, and all the critics calling them a bargain basement U2 or Clash rubbed off. Maybe they were just one of those bands you get into when you're 15 that you grow out of. And then there were the haircuts...

My best mate had Declaration on a cassette which had the soundtrack to the hip hop movie Wild Style on the other side. Seems a little odd to pair the two now. We used to head down to the Barbican Centre where he would practice spinning on his head to Wild Style and then we'd go and buy some cider and Super Tennants from the off license and get drunk. Hearing Declaration now reminds me of getting really drunk and smoking Benson & Hedges and getting sick. I remember listening to it one Saturday morning in 1984 about 5am and then letting the tape turn over to Wild Style and feeling really disorientated. And then flipping the tape back to listen to 'Shout To The Devil' which just sounds evil when all you can taste is Super Tennants...

But anyway, The Alarm. They sound really good to my ears now. I can hear the influences loud and clear - The Jam, The Clash, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen. I can hear why they were compared to U2 and Big Country in that emerging stadium rock thing that happened around then. But there's an energy and timelessness to a lot of it, thanks to the Dylan thing. All those acoustic guitars and harmonicas have stopped it dating too badly compared to some of the more post punk sounding bands.

A lot of it is, like the critics said at the time, meaningless tosh, but exciting and energetic all the same. That rush of voices into the chorus of 68 Guns still sounds pretty thrilling. But in the end it is a little like looking at old photos of yourself. You recognise the times but feel a little disconnected.

Still, there's a bit of me thinks it's fantastic...

The Alarm - 68 Guns
The Alarm - Marching On
The Alarm - Shout To The Devil

4 comments:

ally. said...

the clash used to turn up at alarm gigs for a while and busk the queue which is still one of the things i would've given lots and lots to see. i think they'd pissed them off somewherer along the line or thought they were ripping them off and wanted to show their audience how it really should be done
x

Simon said...

Hah, that really would have been something to see! My best mate when he still lived in the UK busked and one day Strummer came up to him and starting talking about music and joined in busking! Stayed for about an hour and took his share of the takings too!! I was pretty jealous when I heard about it!

Uncle E said...

I used to love the Alarm, and I think I stopped listening to them for the same reason as you. May have to give them another listen.

Davy H said...

As students taking the daily Routemaster from digs in Camberwell to college on The Strand we came up with our own very own version of this song, often sung drunkenly and loud - '68BUS our battle cry....68 BUS will never die, 68 BUUUUUUS!!!'