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Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Direct Action - The Alarm (released 12th April 2010)



'Direct Action' by The Alarm has it's foundations in 'The Counter Attack Collective' (a series of six EP's and an album) and is the follow on from the 2008 release 'Guerilla Tactics' (a project that was also drawn from the same sources). Mike Peters once again sought the services of Gilby Clark to be at the controls for the mixing process as they sought to turn tracks from 'The Counter Attack' into something worthy of a full on release. With Clark's work done Mike Peters twiddled some more and the final result is a fine collection of songs that include a few new tracks as well some lyrically reworked numbers.

The Alarm over the past couple of years have had a real punky edge to their music and that is in evidence here again with the title and opening track almost being mistaken for 'Alternative Ulster' by SLF. That's not a bad thing at all to say though there could be a tendancy to assume that such a work will be dated - the good news is that it is not. It is up to the minute relevant to the times we are living in. 'Direct Action' and 'Release the Pressure' are a case in point. There are some fantastic lyrics contained in these 15 songs (if you buy the download) that show that Mike Peters, even at the tender age of 51 has not lost any of his passion or aggression for radical change in the world in which we live.

According to a statement on thealarm.com, "The sound of 'Direct Action' is the sound of The Alarm right up to the minute and explores themes of change and the ways in which change impacts on our daily lives. 'Direct Action's main tenet is in how to deal with that change and the diverse emotions that it brings out in all of us. Lyrically, it challenges the listener to not be afraid of change but to take positive action or as the title track declares in it's first verse, 'To find inspiration where there is none." Perhaps the lyric that sums up ‘Direct Action’ best can be found in the simple Mike Peters' acoustic performance of 'Badge Of Honour' [Part Two] where he sings "It's up to us to make a truce, up to us to broker peace, up to us to find the words that will make or break us". Listen to Part One of 'Badge of Honour'.

'Release the Pressure' is a superb critique of what is the norm for many around the world who have been impacted by the current resession:

"Economic pressure going to take control of me
Economic pressure from the government to the street
Economic pressure under heavy skies
Economic pressure in my baby's cry
Economic pressure got a hold on me tonight"

And he goes on in that song to show that it has impacted every sphere of our lives and it is like a mini manifesto calling for relief for one and all. Ranking Roger (of The Beat fame) joins on the backing vocals and gives the song a great vibe. What was nice to see as well was that drummer Steve Grantley gets a writing credit on this and 'Plastic Carrier Bags'. His contibution to the band over the past decade has been enormous (he also has duties as drummer for Stiff Little Fingers).

It's not often that a cover version turns up on an Alarm release ('Knocking on Heaven's Door' and 'Rocking in the Free World' are two most well known covers to make it) and the inclusion of Willie Niles infectious 'One Guitar' is a great choice. Mike Peters chose to out this song at The Gathering back in January and it was a hit with the fans from the get go. It's one of those songs that is going to be part of The Alarm live canon for a long time to come I think.

Time prevents me from waxing lyrical about tracks like 'Loaded', 'Change III', 'Milk and Opportunity', 'Higher Call', 'Freedom' and 'After the Rock and Roll Has Gone'. I'm actually hard pressed to find a weak song because there is no filler on this album. It's 14 slabs (or 15 if you bought the download) of the most honest rock and roll that's been released in 2010 this side of the Atlantic.

I'd give it a five star review because they are a five star band!
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