Reviewed by James Lewis
The Alarm used to be described as The Clash-meets-Dylan and with this album Dave Sharp, their guitarist and sometime vocalist, has left out The Clash and met the critics who accused them of being "spikey-haired Dylan copyists" head on. Dylanologists can have fun spotting all the similarities. Al Kooper and Bob Johnston, two of Dylan's cohorts of old, help out here, on an album comprised of six electric band tracks and five solo acoustic numbers, a la 'Bringing It All Back Home' and the street pictured on the back looks suspiciously like the one featured on The Freewheelin'... Musically, most of the songs here recall vividly the range of his '60s classics. The songs were written as a result of wandering across America, and although they concentrate on Western society and its ills (for example, "Last Smilin' Villain From The South" condemns Snake-Oil evangelists), several of the songs hint Heaven-wards for a solution - "It's high time for prayer now/All gathered in this house...We need a new temple here/The old one's gotta fall/All will be revealed/All you gotta do is heed the call" ("New Age Eden"). Neither would it appear that Dave is any kind of New-Ager - "New Age Eden" attacks their ivory towers and "God Save Somebody" (from The Alarm's 'Raw' album) accuses them of a herd mentality! Mike Peters has been the only one in The Alarm vocal about his beliefs but going by these songs and previous material written by him, Dave Sharp has been hiding his light under a bushel. When he claims here he has "Heard 'bout a deal between man and God" ("It Ain't Long For The Day"), I for one am inclined to believe him. (According to the editorial fount of musical wisdom, Dave appeared at Greenbelt '91.) The lyrics don't quite match up to the ascerbic wit and talent for one-liners of Dylan at his peak, but are nevertheless very good - Dave has learnt well from the master! For people who insist on a sermon in every song this is a one star album, but for anyone else...
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