The Alarm - In The Poppy Fields

Long before the Manic Street Preachers flew the flag for Welsh rock, the Alarm made a name for themselves with their anthemic guitar music led by sensitive frontman Mike Peters. The Alarm have notched up and impressive five million album sales worldwide and under the pseudonym The Poppy Fields had their first Top 40 hit since 1991 when their single "45 RPM" reached number 28 in the charts. On the comeback trail with a new lease of life, The Alarm are determined to make a difference.

"Close" has that melodic rock guitar sound The Alarm do so well and it's a timeless, ethereal quality the band excel in. Mike Peter's vocal does veer towards Bono on occasion and it reminds me of U2 at their rockiest, earlier on in their career. Quite commercial in a radio friendly kind of way, it's poppy but not pretentious. The rest of the band offer some fine harmonizing and while lyrically it's a tad repetitive it's a rollicking song none the less. "The Drunk And The Disorderly" opens with just acoustic guitar and the vocal. A seriously realistic portrayal of the long term effects of alcohol abuse, it explodes into top gear like the Cult's "She Sells Sanctuary" when the rest of the band launch into the song. Lyrically it perfectly captures the downside of the demo drink and the language is direct, poetic and flamboyant. The lyrics "I am powerless. There is a greater power" says so much. This is rock with a message without a hint of preaching or over earnest lecturing.

"New Home New Life" is more reflective and low key. The inclusion of keyboards sees a gentler side to The Alarm, Mike Peters reaches the high notes every time and the arrangement is sparse yet sophisticated. When you hear wonderful words like" your heart is haunted by your ghosts" you're confronted by the realization that Mike Peters is a vastly underrated songwriter. "Right Back Where I Started From" is no nonsense rock n roll. The vocal is a bit John Lennon (no bad thing) while the chorus could be Bon Jovi but without the pomp and circumstance.

"In The Poppy Fields" is a rock album with it's heart in the right place. The music is honest and after so many years spent together as a single unit The Alarm may have produced the best album of their long and illustrious career.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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