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Monday, January 14, 2008

(the) Alarm - Standards

Artist: (the) Alarm
Album: Standards (greatest hits)
Year: 1990
Style: Anthemic Alterna-Rock with a dash of Post-Punk
Sounds Like: U2, The Clash, James, Hooters, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Church
"One Word" Review: Earnest-Harmonica-Wasteland-Rock
Based Out Of: Rhyl, Wales
Label: IRS
Standards - Cover, Liner Notes, Tape
Standards - Liner Notes & Tape
Standards - 1990
  1. The Road 3.13 (sample)
  2. Unsafe Building 4.06 (sample)
  3. The Stand 4.43 (sample)
  4. Sixty Eight Guns 3.15 (sample)
  5. Where Were you Hiding When the Storm Broke? 2.57 (sample)
  6. Absolute Reality 3.25 (sample)
  7. Strength 5.34 (sample)
  8. Spirit of '76 7.06 (sample)
  9. Rain in the Summertime 5.11 (sample)
  10. Rescue Me 3.20 (sample)
  11. Sold Me Down the River 4.11 (sample)
  12. Devolution Working Man Blues 4.11 (sample)
  13. Happy Xmas (War is Over) 3.41 (sample)
Album Rating (1-10):6.5
Members & Other Bands:Dave Sharp - Guitar (17)
Eddie Macdonald - Bass (17)
Mike Peters - Vox, Guitar, Harmonica (17, The Poppyfields, Dead Men Walking)
Nigel Twist - Drums (17)
Mick Glossup - Remixing, Producer
Alan Shacklock - Producer
Mike Howlett - Producer
John Porter - Producer
Tony Visonti - Producer

Unknown-ness: I had heard very little about these guys, but I believe that when I bought this tape I was aware of the name. I bought the tape a long time ago, trying to find the song "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," discovering shortly after this was not the original. I was not aware that this was their greatest hits record, so this was a good introduction to the band.

Album Review: All the reviews and comments about this band will compare them to U2 or the Clash. Without peaking, those were the first two bands I thought of when I heard this album. Almost every track could be from either one of those band's catalogs, U2's more predominately U2's. I am a fan of James, so I can hear their style mixed in too (especially in "Rescue Me")... or more realistically, I can see how James was influnced early on by their music. As this is a greatest hits album, the songs are all singles, organized by year and the tape does not have a cohesive album feel.
In order to not drag on about the subject, I will equate the tracks 1-13 to either Clash or U2"parody" tracks. Tracks 1, 2 (just like "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"), 4, 7, 8, 9 (very much so!), 11, & 13 sound like U2, and tracks 3, 5, sound like the Clash. Absolute Reality sounds like a combination of the two.
After listening to the album, I realized I have heard The Stand before. It is a great dancable song that I think I've heard at Making Time or a different 80's night themed event. It has an angry chant verse, with an "Another One Bites the Dust" bass line, and plays out to a strong melodic, repetitive hook for the chorus. "68 Guns" is a great anthemic declration song. It has an angry feel to it like a Black 47 Irish protest song, with a trumpet flavoring the background. There is a Saturday Looks Good To Me song, "Meet Me By the Water" that sounds similar to this song's verse section.

Most of the songs are empowering, giving reason and support to stand up and fight for beliefs against oppression. "Where Were You Hiding" and "Strength" are great examples of that spirit. "Spirit of 76" is a long track combining that fighting spirit (although slowed down a bit) with a mid-west 'Jack and Diane' storyline. "Sold Me Down the River," although sounding like U2 also has a much harder and rocking edge to it, akin to Huey Lewis & The News. And "Working Man's Blues," from the name alone, has that middle-class, mid-west small town vibe to it, digressing to a country stylized rhythm.
To end the compilation, Happy Xmas (War Is Over) is a faithful cover, honoring and respecting the song, with minimal variation in the production. It ends with the familiar choir chant of "War Is Over" , but all male, making a bolder statement than the original. Even though I do not have any of The Alarm's albums, I feel that this is a solid introduction to what you will find on the albums. Since it is chronological (except for the opening song "The Road" 1990) you can feel where the band started from, and how they progressed in song style along their way.

Stand Out Track:The Stand

Links:
Allmusic Alarm
Wikipedia Alarm
Alarm Official Site
Alarm BBC
Dave Sharp Site
Dead Men Walking Myspace
Dead Men Walking Official
Mike Peter Org. Gathering Event
Alarm tribute Myspace
Alarm Official Myspace

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