The Alarm – Standards

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

I got into the Alarm late in the game – 1990 – and having had little exposure to MTV or music media before then, I had no idea how well-known and popular they were in the ‘80s: they opened for U2, Dylan, the Pretenders, and the Police. Nor did I know that they were derided as U2 wannabes, which I think is unfair if somewhat understandable. Anyway, I first heard the Alarm with no context, and I was blown away. They were earnest without being self-righteous, bombastic, tireless, overflowing with positivity, and made me feel like I could run through a wall, or maybe even talk to a girl. Also, I thought Nigel Twist had a cool fucking name. Does a little Alarm go a long way? Yes. Are they pretty much a one-trick pony? Yes. But I defy you to listen to “68 Guns” or “Where Were You Hiding When the Storm Broke?” and not want to throw your fist in the air and find a picket line of Welsh miners to support. “I BELIEVE A MAN CAN CHANGE HIS OWN DESTINY!!!”

What I Think of This Album

I have no objection to “Best of” collections. And frankly, while I listened to the odd Alarm studio album here and there, it turned out this is really all I needed. It’s a solid representation of what made this band so appealing, while it also unintentionally explains why they never made it. They churned out anthem after anthem, and at some point, it gets a little exhausting. But take almost any song here on its own merits, and it’s pretty great.

“Spirit of ‘76” is a rousing call to arms with some nice tempo and arrangement changes, that somehow does not seem overlong at seven minutes plus. “Blaze of Glory” sounds exactly like you would want it to, though the funereal intro is admittedly unexpected. If you need to buck up before attending another terrifying family gathering, you could do worse than to listen to “The Stand.” “Rain in the Summertime” moves along with a rollicking beat and convincing vocal, and “Unsafe Building” might have the most tuneful chorus of any of the songs here.

Some of the tracks were produced by John Porter (Smiths, Billy Bragg) and Tony Visconti (Bowie), as well as Mick Glossop (the Wonder Stuff).

The Best Thing About This Album

So, while Eddie MacDonald co-wrote every song on here, most with Mike Peters, the MVP of this band is still undeniably Peters, whose vocals sell every ounce of emotion in lyrics that would probably sound ridiculous coming from 99% of other vocalists. This band is nothing without Peters, even if Twist is still the coolest member.

Release Date

December, 1990

The Cover Art

Atrocious. I have no understanding of what that logo is supposed to represent, or why anyone – much less multiple people – thought it would be a good idea. The song titles printed in repetition behind the logo in light grey are nearly impossible to read (you can’t even see them on this image, but they are there) and add to the frustration of trying to make sense of exactly what one is looking at.

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