Feel Free Reviews

Sound Alarm for Peters’ Solo Effort (Mike Peters: Feel Free) Review
Best known as a member of the Alarm for the last decade or so, guitarist Mike Peters might have a bit of trouble convincing anybody that he wasn’t holding his best stuff back for FEEL FREE. No word on whether or not the album’s title says anything about Peters’ current relationship with his bandmates, but there’s little doubt as to the, um, “soloness” status of the disc. Peters either writes or co-writes; sings; plays the guitar and usually adds an overdub or two on all 13 tracks except for “What Is It For,” where he plays every instrument, save for the drums. For humorous effect, compare this to the recent Shaquille O’Neal, ahem, solo album where most of the tracks list up to six (!) writers’ credits per track (O’Neal: “Uhh, man, what’s a good word that rhymes with ‘zillions of bucks’? Gee, Shaq, how about “Totally sucks?”). Maybe O’Neal should have layed on the floor to record his first (and no doubt, his last) would-be solo record: the air, way up there where his brain lives, is obviously much too thin. Alas, I digress; let’s get back to FEEL FREE for a while. Basically, unlike Shaq’s humorless, tuneless, spoken word (oops, sorry – rap!) album, FEEL FREE is virtually flawless. Every tune is a fully realized, self-contained entity to and of it’s own, while the breadth of Peters’pop/rock songwriting ability practically spans the spectrum of moods, tempos and styles available. Even the sequencing of the tracks is notable because, somehow, the end of each seems to leave open a certain type of space that can only be filled by the next track. FEEL FREE is loaded with a staggering quantity of clever lyrics, most of which point out the absurdities of life, with great clarity and wit. Peters’ subtle but potent sense of humour, coupled with his mastery of the turn of the phrase, takes the edge off of what is ultimately a sardonic world view, but it’s neatly disguised. The effect is similar to hearing someone being spoken to in such a dryly sarcastic way that it’s a couple of hours later that they finally realize they’ve been called an idiot.
– T. C. Shaw

Mike Peters: Feel Free Review
Speaking of bands that ran out of life force before they ran out of albums on their contract, not many of the bands I like ground to as ignominious a halt as, to me, the Alarm did. If Rush has become like an aging family member whom you love but don’t expect strangers to take to as readily, then by their last album, Raw, the Alarm had become the kind of relative you hand over to professionals and try to simply forget about. Alarm songs were always more about conviction in the abstract than any one belief in particular, but Raw to me was completely empty bluster, an album of mechanical and inept retracings of paths that really merited no further exploration. Mike’s first solo album, Breathe, didn’t leave me feeling as embarrassed for him as Raw did, but it fell a long way short of establishing a new identity. Induced catharsis was always basically all Alarm songs had going for them, and while this is something, and some of their early work is as rousing, I think, as songs ever get, and thus excellent for weeks when you want to feel stirred and never mind why, there’s only so many times you can leap to your feet and wave your fist before you start getting self-conscious and begin to ask that the act have some extra-calesthenic purpose. And Breathe didn’t offer any answers. Feel Free doesn’t offer many, either, but I was ready for a few more Mike Peters songs regardless. And actually, the album partially dodges the questions by, for a change, experimenting with its musical idioms. Some of these songs will still sound familiar to you, particularly “Breathe” and “The Message” (which are reprised from the previous album for no good reason), the “Message”-like drum loops of the similarly verbose “Shine On (113th Dream)”, the galloping choruses of “Regeneration” and the plainly Dylanesque “Psychological Combat Zone”. Elsewhere, though, “Feel Free” starts out with a drum loop and half-spoken narration like it’s going to be another half-rap, but in the chorus a throttled torrent of distorted guitar swarms in. The kick-drum whomp and pensive wah-wah guitar of “All Is Forgiven” give it a slow, undulating groove. “My Calling”‘s gentle acoustic guitars and Harrison-esque chorus melody, and “Broken Silence”‘s harpsichord-ish 12-string and sighing organ, which in Alarm songs would have inevitably given way to hoarse screaming at some point because that was the only tactic for empahsis and dynamic range Peters knew, here stay within themselves, relying for contrast on subtle shading instead of spots and smoke machines. And on the edgy, pulsing “What Is It For?” Peters plays everything but drums himself, and comes up with an intriguingly awkward song in which he and the music seem to alternate barely being able to keep up with each other. These things show Mike discarding some of the ingrained tactical assumptions that used to go into his songs, and that’s got to be a good sign. I don’t know if anything on this album really constitutes firm groundwork for future embellishment, but this week I didn’t need it to.

Feel Free

Feel Free is the first solo album for Mike Peters, front man for the ’80s anthem bank The Alarm. His raw,straining voice, twangy guitar, and staccato drumbeats are familiar, and the new material keeps you listening. Peters’ songwriting is strong on this album, and fans of The Alarm should enjoy it.