277. Strength – The Alarm
After several bad experiences with mediocre to horrible opening acts at concerts my friends and I were in no hurry to get to the LA Sports Arena for U2’s War Tour performance. Fortunately for all of us, the traffic was mysteriously light on a Friday night through Los Angeles. Even stalling to purchase a tour program, T-shirts and buttons would make us late, as much as we tried.
Then a loud acoustic crescendo rocked the arena and all we could make out through the curtained corridors were the words, “Come on down and meet your maker, come on down and take your stand.” We all looked at each and ran to our floor seats as quickly as we (and the security) would allow.
There began my love affair with The Alarm.
Mike Peters and crew have created a score of albums filled with punch, power, presence and an unparalleled passion. There is never a moment in any song where the listener doubts a single word. Filled with Biblical images, inner city turmoil, depression like conditions and hopeful anthems of faith and perseverance, Strength goes beyond platitudes and delivers stinging rebukes and hope filled sermons.
I have always considered the “color” music creates. Artists paint with many shades of colors from the brightest hues and technicolor bouquets (Owl City) to dark and gloomy grays (Saviour Machine). To me, the Alarm painted in earth tones of dirt brown and industrial smog orange. These are images of the working class in urban settings filled with clotheslines draped from apartment buildings and kids playing stickball on gravel roads with broken glass. Vivid pictures of real life.
But through it all a sense of hope and strength that emanates from a place deeper than the hole the subjects populate. Songs like Deeside present this contradiction most clearly. While the centerpiece of the album and highest charting single, Absolute Reality, rings with the anthemic furor that built the Alarm such a consistent and adoring fan base.
Strength doesn’t contain a “hit” in the normal sense of the word, but it ends up being one of the most consistently strong records of their career. Knife Edge, the title track and the stunning closer, Walk Forever By My Side, remain as powerful and stirring as they were some 25 years ago.