By Eleni P. Austin

“Love disappearing from our world, fading fast love sending a message, sending an S.O.S., I only see the hatred, stirred up by the news, in all God’s churches, empty pews, love disappearing from our world fading fast, love sending a message sending out an S.O.S.” That’s The Alarm sending out a distress signal on “Love Disappearing,” from their new album, Forwards.

Somewhere between The Clash and U2, stands The Alarm. Of course, The Clash broke up in the early ‘80s, and U2 is spending their twilight years as a residency act in Las Vegas. But The Alarm has been soldiering on in one form or another, since 1981.

The Welsh four-piece began life as a Punk band called The Toilets, before morphing into Seventeen. At that point, they solidified their most enduring line-up: Mike Peters and Dave Sharp on lead vocals, guitars and harmonica, Eddie MacDonald on bass and keys, along with Nigel Twist on drums. It was at this juncture that they became The Alarm.


Relocating from Wales to London, the band self-released a double-sided single that garnered enough attention to win them a manager. By the end of the year, they had opened for U2 at the Lyceum Ballroom. At the start of 1982, they recorded a series of demos for various labels and finally inked a deal with Miles Copeland’s Indie upstart, I.R.S. Records. Gigging throughout England, they cultivated a passionate fan base. They’d open their raucous live sets armed with only amplified acoustic instruments, finishing with a full-bodied electric sound. Their self-titled EP arrived in the Spring of 1983.

U2 had just released their watershed third album, War, and were ready to conquer America, they invited The Alarm along for the ride. Opening for the Irish band in the U.S. raised their profile exponentially. Soon enough they were appearing on American Bandstand and I.R.S.’ Cutting Edge program. Songs like “The Stand,” “Sixty Eight Guns” and “Blaze Of Glory” went into heavy rotation on MTV.

Their first official long-player, Declaration, arrived in early 1984. Critical acclaim was unanimous and the album edged its way into the Top 50 here in the states. By then, the band was back on the road, opening for The Pretenders. Throughout the ‘80s, each successive album increased their popularity. Strength was released in 1985, Eye Of The Hurricane followed in 1987, and The Alarm landed a spot opening for Bob Dylan. They closed out the decade with Change. By then, hit singles like “Spirit Of ’76,” “Rain In The Summertime” and “Sold Me Down The River,” had become hits on mainstream Rock radio stations. Following the release and tour of 1991’s Raw, Mike Peters stunned the audience and the rest of the band by announcing his departure from The Alarm on stage during a show at the Brixton Academy.

Mike embarked on a solo career in the ‘90s, but by 1996, he was diagnosed with lymph cancer. Luckily, he made a full recovery. By the turn of the 21st century, he began touring with a new configuration of The Alarm. Several iterations followed throughout the next two decades. In between, he continued to make solo music and also formed Coloursound with ex-Cult members Billy Duffy and Scott Garret, as well as former Mission bassist, Craig Adams. He was part of the super group Dead Men Walking, which featured original Sex Pistol Glen Matlock and Damned vocalist Captain Sensible.

Nine years after beating lymph cancer, Mike discovered he was suffering from Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. A 2006 documentary, Mike Peters On The Road To Recovery, chronicled his health battles. In 2022, he announced that his leukemia had returned and he was being treated with chemotherapy at the North Wales Cancer Center. It was during this arduous period that he wrote the songs that became The Alarm’s 19th album, Forwards.

The album opens with a troika of tracks that illustrates Mike’s enduring faith, hope and courage. The title song is up first, tentative piano notes are quickly supplanted ringing guitars, roiling bass and a rollicking, rattle-trap beat. Something of a battle cry, the lyrics speak to the resilience of the human spirit: “In the streets of the abandoned, in the homeless of youth, I’ve been searching my belongings trying to find something that looks like the new truth/My life is out there somewhere, in the half-light and home truths, I’ve been crawling through the wreckage, trying to get back home to you, I’m living for today, trying to find the way forwards, the way forwards.”

“The Returning” tumbles out of the speakers anchored by a knock-about beat, slithery bass lines, jangly acoustic guitars and strafing electric riffs. Even as the days darken, lyrics are shot-through with faith and tenacity: “All the walls are closing in and the world is different, if you want to to stay alive, you’ve got to go the distance, we have all lost track of the days, but none of this shall be in vain, love will survive for the returning, back to life.” Swirly keys and punchy horns line up behind spiky, spiraling guitars on the break, underscoring the message of grit and determination.

The band doubles down on that theme with the sleek, ‘80s-flavored “Another Way.” Icy keys dart around boinging bass and ricocheting guitar riffs. Trenchant lyrics offer up the good, the bad and the ugly: “Life is cabaret, entertainment, as we come and go, through the mirrors and smoke, I don’t believe it, there’s always another way, I’ll leave no flowers, I’ll shed no tears.”

The action slows on a couple of numbers, “Transition” and “Love And Forgiveness.” On the former, the cracks are showing and optimism wains. Modal guitars, brittle bass and downcast piano are tethered to a pulsating rhythm. Unequivocal lyrics simply cut to the chase: “There’s a line I have to cross tonight, if I want to stay alive and live for a second time, knowing time, the way it’s passing by, I can’t afford to wait, to see the light of day.” The dissonant arrangement mirrors the feeling of desolation, but a soaring and cathartic solo on the break hints that all hope is not lost.

The latter is a tender piano ballad that longs for a little emotional rescue: “Like a soldier who ain’t got nothing to fight, like a poet who can’t find any more rhymes, I’m a man who’s lost control of all he owns, are you going to give me love and forgiveness… “I’m a man who’s lost it all bt giving it away, are you going to give me love and forgiveness? Say you’ll be my open window, say you’ll be my open door.” Sun-dappled guitar and plangent piano intertwine between verses, bookended by thrumming bass, churchy organ and a tick-tock beat. It’s a melancholy, minor-key reverie.

Several songs speed-shift with the same Punk-tastic urgency that first distinguished The Alarm in the early ‘80s. The aforementioned “Love Disappearing” matches rapid-fire guitar riffs, flinty harmonica and search-and-destroy bass lines to a punishing backbeat. By the bridge, time signatures shift and insistent vocals are superceded by a tender croon as lyrics looks for some respite from the constant sturm und drang: “Take me to the river, I want to drink from the cool waters, that flow down from the mountain, born from the sea and sky, take me to the green fields, where I can walk in the pastures new, take me down to the valley where I can live in peace.”

“Next” is powered by marauding guitars, prowling bass and a crackling rat-a-tat beat. Succinct lyrics chronicle that moment when the treatment begins to beat the disease: “All the clocks are set to zero, now’s the time to start, I hear the crack of the starting gun, I’m ready for the next, all is possible, all is understood, whatever’s trying to kill me makes me feel alive.” Plinky piano notes signal that the illness has turned a corner and a squally guitar solo whipsaws through the break with a feral intensity.

Finally, howling vocals and flickering guitar open “Whatever.” See-saw bass lines collide with pounding piano and a chunky, stop-start beat. Soulful verses brush up against anthemic choruses and lyrics offer up moments of gratitude and grace: “Every time the sun goes down, I say a little prayer for when the sun goes down, I count all my blessings and say thank you for the simple things in life.”

While the balance of this record has deftly dealt with the personal, it wouldn’t be an Alarm album if it didn’t delve into the political. The final two songs offer a potent one-two punch. “New Standards” is an anthemic protest song. Hopscotching guitars connect with wily bass and a pogo beat. The arrangement adds ballast to vitriolic lyrics that take aim at an apathetic media: “Everybody stops to film the battle, no one’s going to stop the war” as well as our cruel and corrupt culture: “It used to be women and children first, but we’re all refugees in the human stampede, it says a lot now when the first to leave is the captain of the ship who’s going down.” Closing the album is “X,” a diatribe that is equal parts dystopian and Dylanesque. The bare-bones instrumentation is pared down to searching piano chords and a fractious, tumble-down beat. The lyrics take us all to task: “News channels are not about news, they just speculate and use other people’s views, they’re not about the truth or uncovering the proof, they destroy lives like they burn fossil fuel….Keep your eyes on the things you value, the thing that you prize, there’s always a price, you might have to pay it twice for living the quiet life/The times are changing, right here right now, time re-arranging right in front of my eyes, time goes by with the blink of an eye, time waits for no one, the times are changing.” It’s a thought-provoking finish to a triumphant record.

The current edition of The Alarm includes fearless leader Mike Peters on Guitar, acoustic, baritone, harmonica and lead vocals, James Stevenson on guitar, baritone and backing vocals, Jules Jones Peters on piano, organ, strings and backing vocals and Smiley on drums, percussion and backing vocals. Forwards was produced by longtime Alarm producer, George Williams who provided all additional instrumentation.

Despite battling a life-threatening disease, Mike continued to create new music. He and producer George Williams demo’ed songs, not knowing if the album would wind up a posthumous release. Through grit and determination, he persevered, and in the process, conceived The Alarm’s enduring record. Mike Peters went to hell and back and survived to tell the tale.