A Declaration of intent, very definate in its viewpoint andclear in its ideals. The Alarm would be so easy to ridicule if it weren’t for the unavoidable power of their songs. Anthemic but not ridiculously so, their dignity stems from factors far less obvious than a resounding chorus.
It’s easy to see why this band attract contempt – the hilarious hairstyles and Jesse James meets Desperate Dan wardrobe, the unapologetic confidence of their “stand” and crucially, their poaching and mixing of a bizarre amalgam of styles virutally invite ridicule. From folk heroes to punk residue, they cross-match abd bastardize to form a perverse conglomerate that’s been aligned to diverse sources, from Dylan to Mott The Hooplevia The Clash and Barry McGuire – and worse still, they’ll admit to it. The Alarm are hardly a breathtakingly original band I’d argue that, just as the Police took raggae and made it their own, made it difficult, as Big Country weave ballads into something new, The Alarm catalyse their own fascinations into original forms.
“Declaration” raises its head in defiance of the band’s detractors. Even superficial perusal quickly emphasises that The Alarm are far more than an unpreprocessed post-punk deviation or an errant attempt to engender folky traditions with something new. Capable of a grandeur that rides on the basic principle of simplicity flabvoured with a melodic coupling of acoustic and electric instruments their songsdon’t need the artificial devices of “widescreen” production a la Lillywhite to bolster their effect, and how easily the could have wandered into that little game.
Istead, Alan Shacklock goes for clarity rather than camouflage,preserving the raw-edged sweetness of the acoustics, the immediacy that triggers the adreneline of their gigs.
Proving the band’s songs are not all cast from the same mould, “Declaration” (while definately consolidating a particular Alarm “sound”) is pleasingly diverse. The wicked whiplash of “Marching On” is as invigorating as an earlt morning dip into a freezing whirlpool. “Third Light”, with Eddie MacDonald taking over vocals, is an exploration into their punier heritage, a bitter lament at the grave of an unknown soldier, “68 Guns” and “Where Were You Hiding” need no further recommendation.
“Shout To The Devil” leaps at you like a rabid Doberman, Twist’s pugnaciously accelerative drumming demands our attention and it provides a perfect contrast to the next track, “Blaze Of Glory”, which isn’t as good as the original demo but still a stunning song. The harmonica is almost a lead instrument on a track built around little drummer-boy percussion that evokes images of the American Civil War, wih bugles and acoustics fading and swelling with magnificant style.
“Blaze” more than any other track is an Alarm signiture: “It’s funny how they shoot you down when your hands are held up high…” “Tell Me” is a ballad hat crashes into life, with Dave Sharp on vocals. “Like the rise and fall of the British Empire you make me sick with your conceit”) but thefinal track, “Howling Wind” is the record’s highlight.
Bowed and electric guitars compete for attention behind Mike’s viciously powerful vocal – the electric guitars veer and sheer Joe Walsh style mania – can this be The Alarm? “Declaration” is almost arrogant in its defiance, conceited in its beliefs, amug in its self assurance, Almost, but not quite – The Alarm make their point with style and dignity and what happens now is up to you.