The ’80s Pin Project: The Alarm

For an explanation of what the Pin Project is, go here.

There was a crop of bands that sprang up in the 1980s that came to public interest because they were sort of like U2-2. Scotland’s Simple Minds was one of those bands, with a similar sort of ethereal guitar sound and moody lyrics. Midnight Oil were U2’s Aussie, equally strident counterpart. And there was Welsh band The Alarm

…oh, The Alarm…

I loved em, spiky hair and all.

I loved them so, spiky hair and all.

They were earnest and had harmonicas and found some great guitar hooks. And hey, they wrote a song about the Stephen King book The Standso they liked to read (because really, that book is enormously long) and that’s cool, dig?

Side note: I have read The Stand twice and thoroughly enjoyed it…mostly. The scene where the band of survivors escapes Manhattan Island, which has had its bridges blown and is cut off from the mainland, via the pitch black Lincoln Tunnel is one of the scariest scenes I’ve ever read. But GOD I hate how that book ends. And I digress.

The Alarm was one of those bands that were always on the edge of being The Next Big Thing. They opened for U2 (further cementing their “one of these things sounds like the other” reputation); they opened for Bob Dylan at the Garden State Arts Center (which is when I saw them). But then they sort of faded away, apparently the victim of creative struggles, lackluster support from their label, and some deeply personal misfortunes. It didn’t take long for The Alarm to end up on the “Where Are They Now?” pile. It’s sad when it happens, but unless you’re The Rolling Stones…it happens.

Note to the good people who administer The Alarm’s web archives: the Garden State Arts Center (now PNC Bank Arts Center) is in Holmdel, not Holmdale. Get on that when you can, ‘k?

Yes, mystified friends who know me, I went to a Bob Dylan concert. But The Alarm was opening! And it was such an odd double-bill that I had to go.

I have a fairly high nostalgia threshhold for The Alarm and their music, which still makes me want to fist-pump my righteous indignation, though I am afraid the music doesn’t hold up as well as I’d hoped. It feels so very…1980s. And a lot of their stuff wants for real dynamic movement. Like, The Alarm only plays at one volume, and that’s loud and ooh-ah-ah jangly. And strident. And not a little bombastic. Which can be exhausting. I mean, U2 cut their teeth on songs of political protest but even Bono and Co. manage to work in a song about a tortured relationship, every now and again.

Here’s The Alarm at their most U2-iest.

Check out those vocals! If Hogwarts [was real and] offered a class in vocally mimicking Bono, Mike Peters and The Alarm would have been at the top of the class. It’s impressive. A little unsettling, maybe, but impressive nonetheless. For reasons like this very song, The Alarm is impossible for me to discuss without invoking U2. Of course, if you’ve got reasons why I should rethink this, I’m willing to learn.

Enjoy the music! I’d love to hear any stories you’ve got about The Alarm.

See you with the next pin. XOXO

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