If Mike Peters is using the “MMVI” suffix in a bid to not annoy his band-mates of the ’80s, he needn’t have bothered. Frankly, Under Attack is how The Alarm were always meant to sound.
To be fair, the Change album and half of Raw managed it, but only now has The Alarm’s unquestionable ability to rock been fully captured – rather than alluded to – on record.
Not that there are any compromises on The Alarm staples of arena anthemy, mellifluous melody or a flavouring of folk. It’s just that these elements are now placed within their rightful context – one of energy, vibrancy and exuberant expression.
In our downloading generation it’s easy to forget about the days when artists had to craft an album, think about how songs nestled together and concern themselves with the tracks being of consistent quality.
In Under Attack’s case there is no dichotomy, for every track is a triumph, with the result that it can be viewed as an album that requires no skip button or else as a ready-made playlist, depending on your playback preference.
Highlights are difficult to extricate because there are so many. The driving punk rock of Superchannel; the gargantuan chorus of Without A Fight; The Jam-like tub-thumping intro to My Town; the classy harmonies in the chorus of Rain Down; Mike Peters’ Bono-competing vocal performance in It’s Alright/It’s Ok and This Is Life (Get Used To It); the early Cult-ish gothic guitar tone of Be Still; The Sex Pistols-with-a-harmonica rabidity of Cease And Desist; the grunginess of Zero; the emotion of I Never Left I Only Went Away and Something’s Got To Give; the switch to fast raucousness half-way through Few And Far Between; the reflective sincerity of This Is The Way We Are.
Out of breath after reading that? Listen to Under Attack in one sitting and you might just be for a better reason.
Under Attack’s desire to puff up its chest and demand your attention is made all the more poignant when you realise that the album title was chosen and lyrics such as “I’m never giving up without a fight” were written before he found out he had leukaemia.
But then Mike Peters always was a battler and it is fitting that he and his band should make the most defiant record of their career when external circumstances require it. The “storm” referred to in an early Alarm hit has “broken”. When it subsides and Peters has beaten the disease, doubtless there will be more superb albums. He’ll have to go some to top this though.