Review – The Alarm “Eye Of The Hurricane” (3 stars)

“Eye” or “the disaster album” as my brother used to call it, came as a shock to most Alarm fans. The electronic drums on the first single “Rain In The Summertime” are a bit hard to swallow, and the synthesizers used elsewhere just seem out of place for The Alarm. These elements are used only sparingly on the album, but the production seems to highlight them, making them even more evident.

What The Alarm were trying to do with “Eye” was to not re-create “Strength”. They were only partially successful. Songs like “Rain In The Summertime”, “Presence Of Love”, “Hallowed Ground”, “Newtown Jericho” and “Eye Of The Hurricane” certainly ring of a new sound, but the other half of the album: “One Step Closer To Home”, “Shelter”, “Rescue Me”, “Permanence In change” and “Only Love Can Set Me Free”, could have been on “Strength II” if they had a harder-edged production. What we get is a compromise of two song styles, hampered by an even-handed production that doesn’t highlight either of them.

The easy stand-out is Dave Sharp’s “One Step Closer To Home”, which is simply one of the best songs ever recorded. It is easy to pick out from the rest of the album because it was recorded live (the only way Dave could get it the way he wanted). “Rain In The Summertime” is brilliant song, (even with the electronics), and the haunting “Hallowed Ground” harkens back to old Alarm b-sides like “Unbreak The Promise”. “Shelter” and “Newtown Jericho” have their moments, but they are just not as interesting as they could have been. “Permanence In change” is the only song with harmonica (which, strangely, was missing from “Hallowed Ground”) and has an outstanding bass-line, making it come off as one of the better crafted songs on the album.

The title track, “Eye Of The Hurricane” has a promising acoustic riff, but is mired in sea of swirling synthesizers, that crashes with a resounding “thud” during he chorus. “Rescue Me” is a really great song, but it is one that could have truly used a more “Strength”-style production, instead it seems almost low-key in its rock attack, the same can be said for “Only Love Can Set Me Free”. There may be a reason for this (but not an excuse). “Eye Of The Hurricane” was the first Alarm album that was essentially self-produced (John Porter gets the credit for guiding them in the studio), and the problems most likely come from there. Still, “Eye Of The Hurricane” is solid album, but also one that left me wondering what the songs would have sounded like if they were all recorded a different way.

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