Alarm – In The Poppy Fields

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Album Review by Mark Bayross

Back in February, a punky little number called 45 RPM entered the charts from a bunch of young upstarts called The Poppy Fields. All very mid-90s revival, except that the group turned out to be none other than The Alarm (remember them?) under a pseudonym, with a bunch of hired mimers standing in.

A publicity stunt possibly, but there was a genuine reason for this subterfuge. The band were working on a new record and, fearing the prejudice that usually attaches itself to judging comebacks, wanted to get some honest feedback. A succession of thumbs up later, the band came clean, and here’s the resulting album.

Comeback single aside, this sounds a heck of a lot like early U2 – driving rhythms, thumping drums and Mike Peters’ soaring vocals abound – while lines like “I walk with the demons and devils / shadow-boxing the ghosts of my reflection in windows” (THE DRUNK AND THE DISORDERLY) would undoubtedly induce sniggers outside of their core fanbase.

Nonetheless, there are some strong moments: NEW HOME NEW LIFE has a sublime early New Order-style bass, THE UNEXPLAINED deals in effective synth-led melancholia and opener COMING HOME bolts out of the blocks like a thoroughbred. Unfortunately, THE ROCK AND ROLL is a misguided attempt to craft a stadium anthem that outdoes Bon Jovi for cheesiness (“The rock and roll still burns in me”, indeed).

IN THE POPPY FIELDS is a solid album, albeit one that still bears the hallmarks of a band that was pretty big in the early 80s. It’s resolutely unfashionable, but then so what? The cringeworthy moments are there for sure, but they are still outweighed by decent songwriting and a respectable stab at dynamism.

4 stars