(21st century record company)
All formats available
The Alarm’s 21st studio album, Forwards, is out on their own label, Twenty First Century Recording Company.
The Welsh punk survivors have released Forward, the follow-up to last year’s Omega. The piece was written and recorded over 50 days in early 2021 during the pandemic.
In a dark irony, Omega could be the last production after the lone original member, Mike Peters, who made headlines with pneumonia and a severe leukemia relapse in 2022. The condition was first diagnosed in his 1995.
Fortunately, that did not happen and we are now presenting an optimistic, life-affirming foreword written while the artist was undergoing treatment at Easbeatty Gran Clyde Hospital in Lille. I leave “I literally took the guitar to the hospital,” says Peters. “I was in the ward for so long that I started writing songs for Forwards between IV sessions, and the first people to hear the music were literally people trying to keep me alive. The album was recorded between hospital stays and took the band to the recording studio with producer George Williams, even though the singer could barely speak due to the debilitating chronic illness. he says: “I have been to a place where only deep suffering can rob the human spirit, and in the darkness I clung to every light I could find to revive. This led me to write ‘Forward’. It was the energy that drove me to record.”
Before we move on (sorry for the bad pun), let’s check. The Alarm have released 17 UK Top 50 singles since the early 1980s, including the excellent ’68 Guns’.Spirit of 76 and Rain in the
Summertime has sold over 6 million albums worldwide. The band broke up in 1991, but Peters went on to work as a solo artist on projects such as Color Sound with Billy Duffy, before returning to the “Alarm” moniker in the early 2000s. To be honest, I’m not qualified to summarize the artist’s long career, but I can say here that the band’s website has clearly taken a lot of time and attention, and I’ve done this, including interviews. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen so far.
(Sorry, I’ll talk about the album in a second!) Another thing that pops out of the site is how great a man Mike Peters is. He was knocked down again and again, but he got up again. He’s a savvy operator, perhaps one of the first artists to launch his own label, release music, and control cagalogs, while at the same time he’s always in touch with his fans. Since lockdown, his Big Night In his online broadcast (via YouTube) has attracted thousands of views from all corners of the globe. The artist and his love of music have also been celebrated at ‘The Gathering’ each year. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and taking fans to North Wales, next week Peters OS will fly to New York for four sold-out days of performances, chats and meet-and-greets from 22nd to 25th June. He seems to be a great man, but at the same time a very humble man. Great philanthropy (with his wife Jules) through the Love Hope Strength Foundation promoting innovative music-related outreach and awareness programs for leukemia and cancer patients, survivors and their families. How many readers do you know?
To tell the truth, I myself am no longer a fan of alarms. The last real memory of the band was 2004’s “Poppy Fields Hoax” leading up to the movie Vinyl. However, I did know that they were responsible for the official Wales World Cup single, ‘The Red’. Kimur wall. My musical tastes and allegiances may have changed over the decades, but I still remember the excitement of hearing the aforementioned 68 Guns when I was (still) in my early teens. Just like he did in the 1980s, he recorded from Radio 1’s Top 40. I also remember picking up Spirit of 76 in the ‘ex-jukebox’ section of the Grants newsagent in Heald Green after I got paid for the newspaper. The albums “Eye Of The Hurricane” and “Electric Folklore Live” later became the YTS soundtracks for my bus trips and after I graduated from school. The track’s dynamics always grab attention, and Mike Peter’s soulful yet occasionally gritty vocals take you there.
So what about the new album? How does this compare? The forward has a sense of urgency and stored, restless energy right from the off. The opening title track sets the tone for the album, providing a balanced reflection on the desire to live throughout. The first track fades in as if returning from darkness into the light of hope. Peters described the song as follows: “It was written for the moment when I was trying to stay alive. I was in the hospital, searching my mind and body for clues on how to survive. I told him that if he had time, he should not sit still, but at least take a few steps along the corridors of the hospital, which is usually the night when the place is deserted, and the lyrics are a long hallway. All the fleeting sights I get when I see other people sometimes grief-stricken along the way, or clinging to life itself as much as I do. And when I decided to go public with the news about what was happening to me and post it on the Alarm’s website, I ended my message with the word “forward.” I was. I knew right away that it was going to be the title of the song and the album.”. It’s the hook that summons the weapon and pulls you in.
Forwards is unsurprisingly dominated by the artist’s experiences from the past year, with love, hope and strength being the main themes throughout. After a few listens, some of them caught my eye, such as the beginning of “The Returning,” a song written for Jules and his sons Dylan and Evan. “If you want to live, dream out loud” Alternatively, close out one side of the album with the defiant “What’s gonna kill me…” previous single and next single.
“Another Way” gives an insight into the workings of the writer’s mind and his determination. “There is always the other way around. I always believe there is a solution, even when it affects direction.” That seems to have paid off with the next track, “Love And Forgiveness,” the singer commented. “It always amazes me to find myself standing on the other side of life’s challenges. I am grateful to be alive and to have received the love and forgiveness to continue…” This is probably my favorite song on the album, it’s a mid-tempo song, almost Dylan-esque.
The second opening track, “Whatever,” was born from John Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night,” which was playing on the hospital radio one day. applied to longer intentions. Through life? He remembers, “When I was in Ward 11 with a lung drain (through my back), I had to lie on one side for seven days while I had five liters of blood drawn from my partially collapsed lung. To keep my sanity, I started imagining what Alarm’s new record would sound like, and what songs I’d need to put in between the record’s jackets to get me through this predicament. As soon as I set up my recording gear, a song suddenly came out of my imagination, as if they were writing themselves, and the music overcame me and took me to a place where I could start living again. I know you went.”.
Transition is probably the most open, raw, brutal song on the album, written at some point. “We are literally at a place of transition between life and death.” The opening verse that makes it clear. “There’s a line/I have to cross it tonight/If I want to live/I’ll live a second life.” It lights up musically about halfway through, especially when the guitar riff kicks in. At some point, it sounds no different than I Will Follow, but you start to see hope on the horizon.
“The Disappearance of Love” is the oldest piece on the album, written before and recorded after. A little bit of everything. The open section gives it a Spanish feel before you hit the tub. Here in my little village in Wales, it’s as if life has changed, and the winters are getting harsher every year, unlike the summers I remembered as a child. ”
The penultimate New Standard looks to the future, “about changing attitudes toward life, the impact of social media, and the dynamics between society and authority.” After charting the trauma of his hospital stay, Peters believes he can now focus on what happens next. He said of the song, “Mankind sets new standards every day. I hope we can all learn to live with them and by them.” It concludes with track X, but it’s up to the listener how they perceive it. “Once I wrote the lyrics in one go, it was all there. It didn’t have a title, but it was the last song on a ten-song record, so I named it X.”
A lot of people may come to the forward in the wake of the recent fight with Mike Peter, but it really is the perfect place to get back to The Alarm. Veteran followers will wonder where I and we have been, and it’s a legitimate question. It was us, not the band, who had left. With over 400 songs, there’s a lot to catch up on. I’m going to start now. The opening sentence, written 40 years ago, seems like a prophecy… “And now they are trying to take my life…”. “They” did and are still trying, but thankfully Mike Peters survived and is still here telling the story.
I’ll leave the final words to Mike… “Many artists had to kill people to make a record like ‘Forers’, but given the challenges that befell me in 2022, I’m determined to realize the ambitions put into these songs. I had to kill or be killed for sure.Making this record was literally life or death.I’ve already taken so much out of my life that I’m chronically ill. When I was in the hospital, I wasn’t sure if I would ever be given another chance to live.Luckily for me, I was given more time on earth, but I had to make the most of every second. Challenges remain.”
The Alarm will join The Mission and The Cult at Cardiff Castle on July 4th.
Tickets can be purchased here
The Alarm website, Facebook, twitter and Instagram
All words by Ian Key.View author profile here or find him on Twitter @iainkey
I have a small request. Subscribe to Louder Than War and help keep the fire of independent music burning. Click the button below to see what you can earn.
Register for LTW