In 1987 I saw a video on MTV by this band called The Alarm for a song entitled “Rain In the Summertime”. The voice of Mike Peters froze me in my tracks. I loved it, and filed it away in my head to acquire later. Fast forward to November, 1988. I had just started dating a girl who was a metalhead, like me, but also had a deep affinity for bands like Depeche Mode, U2, and yes, The Alarm. I was at her house one day after school, all set for a hot make-out session when I saw it…in her wall-mounted tape case (remember those??) was a tape: The Alarm- Eye of the Hurricane! Naturally I turned on the charm and when I left the tape case was in my denim jacket pocket, and the tape was where? In the trusty Walkman, that’s where!! I took longer than normal to ride home that day because I was listening to sheer greatness.
The album opens up with one of my favorite songs even now, the aforementioned “Rain In the Summertime”, a song that was always my go-to whenever I was upset, pissed, or depressed, and it still works for me. The guitars of Dave Sharp are so fluid it actually reminds me of the rain, and no matter where I am or what I am doing, I am transported back in time whenever I hear it, and I end up smiling. It’s magical. “Newtown Jericho” is next, with decidedly dark subject matter for something so melodic. One thing The Alarm faithfully did on each album was address the plight of the working man, and “Hallowed Ground” is one of their finest examples of this. When they sing about no work on the docks, you can see it.
Powerful stuff, as was the mostly piano-driven “One Step Closer to Home” about a wayward young man. This is one I cut my vocal teeth to when I was first learning how to sing. Mike Peters’ voice has always been real, true, and full of emotion. When he sings it, you FEEL it, and that was the case with this one. And when the band comes crashing in later, the hairs on the back of my neck still stand up. It’s a song I used in my warm-ups for years, and if I am ever foolish enough to take the mic again, I will go right back to this one. And then “Shelter” closes out side one on a rocking note. We open side two with one of the most powerful Alarm songs I have ever felt in my heart, my mind, and my soul. That song is “Rescue Me”, and believe me, when this one was in my headphones I was pedaling like a goddamn Tour De France cyclist it got me so amped up!
Now this may be hard for you all to believe, but I was, and I still am, a love song junkie. When they are done just right, they actually melt this old Iceman’s heart and on this album we get TWO. In a row. “Permanence In Change” and “Presence of Love” both made their way onto the many love song mix tapes I was famous for in high school and college despite my unwavering assurances of “No, baby. These songs are yours and yours alone” to whoever was foolish enough to give me their heart back then. The thing is, I actually MEANT it at the time. God, I fell in love so easily back then. If you want examples of songwriting perfection, then look no further. The line, “And your name is forever written” still gets to me 25 years later.
“Only Love Can Set Me Free” is a great anthem of unwavering hope and optimism, while closer “Eye of the Hurricane” carries us away on a wave of wistfulness and longing, showing the versatility of this band that never got its due. Dogged by comparisons to The Clash early on, then U2 starting with this record, The Alarm were never able to rise above the ranks of college radio darling for most of their career back then. That always upset me and pissed me off because of what lay not only on Eye of the Hurricane but the previous albums: real human emotions laid bare and out there for the entire world to see and feel. Some of us got it. Some didn’t. But ultimately this album stands the test of time. I remember buying it for my friend Jennifer for her Sweet Sixteen. When she looked puzzled, I simply said, “Just listen to it.” It wasn’t long before she was almost as in love with them as I was. Almost. I was pretty damn obsessed.
Mike Peters, Dave Sharp, Eddie MacDonald, and Nigel Twist were four lads from Wales who truly had something to say. But beyond that, I will associate so many things with this album: first dates, first kisses, my tumultuous teenage years dealing with the death of my father, and some of the heartbreak I put my mother through. Eye of the Hurricane served as the soundtrack for these things, good and bad, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because this album also saved my life on more than one occasion, but that’s another story for another time. ~dc