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  In the Poppyfields
Artist: The Alarm 
Label: Snapper Music
Length: 12/50:27

Earlier this year The Alarm pulled off one of the best musical jokes on the “industry” in quite some time.  Upon releasing “45 R.P.M.,” the single from their new album, In the Poppyfields, the band then released a video for the same song.  Let’s face it, a new video from a band of 40-somethings who have a cult following would be universally ignored, right?

So, the band hired a group of 18-year-old, good-looking young men to do the video for them, lip-synching the Alarm’s lyrics, and performing the song as “The Poppyfields,” a new punk rock group.  The song went to #28 in the English charts before it was revealed that this was a new song by The Alarm.

For years perceived as a second-tier, U2 wannabe band, The Alarm carved out a memorable niche in the '80’s and '90’s with numerous college radio hits, and one minor success in the US with “Sold Me Down the River”.  How does the new material stand up against their track record?

Quite well, in fact.  “45 R.P.M” is a driven punk number that hearkens back to their glory days.  “Coming Home” is a song that brings things full circle, closing with a line from the early 90’s song “Change”: “it’s been a long time coming and it’s good to be back.”   “The Unexplained,” ironically, could be a U2 outtake.  “Right Back Where I Started From” continues the album’s theme of new beginnings and the cycles of life.

“New Home New Life,” “True Life,” and “Trafficking” all hold up when compared to the previous catalog as well.  In fact, the only song that suffers by comparison is “The Drunk and the Disorderly,” which is hampered by the fact that it is about three minutes too long.

Old time fans should be cautioned: this is not the band lineup you saw recently on “Bands Reunited” on VH1.  Other than Mike Peters, Dave Sharp is the only original member still performing (but not with The Alarm).  Peters takes lead vocals, and guitars, and the lineup is rounded out by James Stevenson (ex-Gene Loves Jezebel), bassist Craig Adams (Mission UK), and drummer Steve Grantley (Stiff Little Fingers).

In the Poppyfields shows that the fire within Peters has not cooled.  The band continues to cover new ground, with a pleasing familiarity that shows despite the lineup changes, the signature sound of The Alarm is still with us.

Brian A. Smith
12 July 2004



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