Reviewed by James Lewis
The long-awaited (and mid-priced) solo debut by the former front man of the Alarm is here... Was it worth the wait? Well, Mike has taken on board the movement of rock towards a denser club sound, like many of his peers, U2, the now defunct Deacon Blue and others. However, rather than the radical rethink of 'Achtung Baby', Mike has opted for more of an evolution. "If I Can't Have U" steals the rhythm section from 87's "Rain In The Summertime" whilst "Levis And Bibles" and "Train A Comin"' aren't too far from the sound of old. However, other tracks stray far more from the traditional rock sound. "21st Century", "This Is War" and "Spiritual" all take up-to-the-minute influences on board and die-hard traditionalists will no doubt be horrified to hear "This Is War" seque into a rock-rap version of Grandmaster Flash's proto-rap hit "The Message". So is it successful? Well for me, yes, with a little qualification. The addition of strings to a couple of songs seems to dilute the fiercer sound that Mike has been producing live and it's mostly the harder edged tracks, like the excellent "Love Is A Revolution" and the anti-racist "Beautiful Thing" (along with "Devil's World", "Back Into The System" and "It Just Don't Get Any Better" from the singles), that work the best. Lyrically, the songs contain Mike's strongest Christian statements since 'Declaration'. "Revolution" lists the inverted priorities of agape love and the touching "Train A Comin'" is a statement of faith and hope in the face of tragedy. People who wrote off The Alarm would do well to give Mike another listen.
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