True West Presents
The Alarm, Modern English, Jay Aston's Gene Loves Jezebel
3017 SE Milwaukie Ave.
Portland, OR, 97202
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is all ages
Before assembling material for The Alarm's first album of new music in eight years, Mike Peters paused to take stock. To move forwards, he first had to look back and acknowledge the back-story of a group whose songs of defiance have traditionally been fuelled by an almost umbilical bond between band and audience. In the aftermath of 2010's Direct Action album, Mike Peters embarked on an ambitious renovation program that commemorated a string of Alarm 30th anniversaries by revisiting some of the band’s landmark releases from the Eighties, a decade that saw a plucky band of young Welsh guitar-slingers break straight outta Rhyl, with plenty of street fighting spirit and an implacable belief in the communal power of music. Mike and the group began by re-working some of their earliest songs on 2011's The Sound And The Fury before re-imagining a brace of their mid-Eighties albums, Declaration and Strength, by re-recording them in full, and taking the new versions out on the road with a marathon world tour.
“I wanted to address our artistic history,' says singer, guitarist and songwriter Mike Peters. “There wasn't a massive need for new music purely for the sake of it around that time, because we have an audience who are very attached to our history. I also wanted to go back to the start and re-evaluate everything. I had songs that had followed me around for all of my adult life, and I wanted to remake them as if they had been written today. The meanings of some lines change as you go through life, and I wanted to reflect that. I knew it would divide opinion, but I felt it would open doors, too. I wanted to shake up our audience and myself, so I re-wrote some of the original lines and re-introduced verses I had edited out. It had quite an effect on me: the past started to inform how I was writing my new songs and I was able to carry that spirit forward into something new.'
That something new is Equals, The Alarm's first new album since Direct Action and a barnstorming collection of 11 songs that act as a retrenchment of original values and a poignant reflection of the tough times Mike and his wife Jules have been through in recent years. Having recovered from lymph cancer in 1996, Mike was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia in 2005 and, after an initial recovery, he suffered a relapse in 2015. To compound an already terrifying situation, Jules, who plays piano and sings backing vocals, was diagnosed with breast cancer just after. All band activity was put on hold as the pair underwent treatment and it is only now, with both in remission, that The Alarm are firing on all cylinders again. The emotional repercussions, though, are all too evident in the spirit of life-affirming optimism in the face of adversity that runs through Equals.
'The songs were built out of what I had become,' says Mike. 'I learned a lot about myself and my relationship with Jules, and it's all there in the music. I didn't set out to write about what we were going through. If there was any music in me, it was going to come out naturally, and that's what happened. I didn't have a guitar by my side as my wife was having investigative surgery for breast cancer. All I had were these incredibly strong feelings that I found myself putting into words and writing down onto my phone without even thinking they might form the basis for songs. It was only after we'd both reached some sort of equilibrium that I realized I had all these lyrics. One day, I put the words on the studio floor and realized I could make sense of them as music. I don't even remember writing most of these lyrics, because my mind had been focused on more important matters.'
With so much material--23 finished songs in all--Mike initially envisaged The Alarm’s return with a double album (which started out under the all-embracing handle of Blood Red Viral Black). “All the songs had a similar emotional core although there are also fundamental differences,” Mike explains. “So I divided the songs into two categories--inwards/red/blood and outwards/black/viral. Road-testing the new songs live helped me to decide which ones were right for Equals.”
Produced by George Williams, who previously worked on 2005's Under Attack, Equals opens with a torrent of epic rock numbers such as “Two Rivers” and “Beautiful,” which see Peters singing about coming to terms with the past before moving to enjoy life to the full. With Mike and Jules joined by Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros drummer Smiley and guitarist James Stevenson, who cut his teeth with Chelsea, Gen X and The Cult, the album encompasses twin harmony guitars, pounding drums and electronic layering, while guest guitarist Billy Duffy (The Cult) helps Peters and Stevenson blend acoustic and electric sounds on “Coming Backwards.”
“One of the things that set us apart during the early days of The Alarm was the way we put electric pickups into acoustic guitars,” Mike says. “That gave us a unique style, but we never explored that in full as we progressed. So I went back and created the ultimate, custom-made Alarm guitar--one with an electric pickup that could also be played acoustically. As I was preparing this album, I also experimented with loop pedals and other effects. I listened to Ed Sheeran, The White Stripes and The Black Keys, who use old/new school technology to create a big sound through just one or two musicians. In the rehearsal room, I learned to create the sound of a full band while I was turning the lyrics into songs. The technology set me free.'
Equals is the latest chapter in an inspirational story that has seen The Alarm sell six million albums while earning 17 Top Fifty singles in the UK. Formed in 1981 in the Welsh seaside resort of Rhyl, the original band of Peters, Dave Sharp, Eddie MacDonald and Nigel Twist broke through on the back of the singles “Unsafe Building,” “The Stand,” “Sixty Eight Guns” and “Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke?”, their music is a passionate blend of amped-up acoustic guitars, harmonica and Mike's stirring voice. A string of successful albums saw them bracketed alongside U2, The Waterboys, Simple Minds and Big Country as part of Eighties rock's distinctive Celtic fringe. After an emotional swansong at Brixton Academy in 1991, the original members went their separate ways, with Mike launching a solo career and joining forces with Billy Duffy in a short-lived band called Coloursøund. The lingering allure of his old group proved hard to resist, however, and Peters entered a new millennium back at the helm of The Alarm. The group's activities since that 1999 re-launch have included an ambitious album project, the Poppy Fields Bond, that saw them release five CDs in five months in 2003 and a “fake band” escapade the following year in which they concealed their true identity by releasing a single, 45 RPM, as The Poppy Fields. They created a global news story when the song unexpectedly hit the UK charts.
Today, with Mike's health now 'back on an even keel' and Jules in remission, The Alarm are looking forward to promoting Equals with characteristic vigour. Peters wouldn't want it any other way. Not long after his second diagnosis, he founded a charity foundation, Love Hope Strength, and has since registered over 170,000 individuals to the International Bone Marrow Donor Registry. A man who refuses to be beaten, his drive in adversity is truly something special.
“I had a very solid upbringing, with strong parents who were always supportive,” says Mike. “They never had a problem with me becoming a punk or starting a band. Later on, all my dreams starting coming true. I appeared on Top Of The Pops, toured America, sang onstage with Bob Dylan and met the love of my life. Then, suddenly, all of life's certainties were ripped away. I didn't know how I was going to respond, but writing songs helped. It would have been natural to think: "Why me?". But I didn't want to put those sentiments into song, so I had to accept what was happening and find a way of moving forwards. Looking back, the situation allowed me to keep on doing what I've always aspired to do as an artist--which is to write honestly and openly about life without fear.”
Modern English are an English rock band best remembered for their songs "I Melt with You," "Hands Across the Sea," and "Ink and Paper". The group disbanded for a period in 1991, but later recorded in 1995 with some new members. The original members reformed in 2009 and are currently touring with plans for a new release in 2016!
Formed in Colchester, Essex, England, in 1979 by Robbie Grey (vocals), Gary McDowell (guitar, vocals), and Michael Conroy (bass, vocals), Modern English were originally known as The Lepers. The group expanded to "Modern English" when Richard Brown (drums) and Stephen Walker (keyboards) were subsequently added to the line-up of the band.
After a single on their own 'Limp' label in 1979, the band signed to 4AD the following year, with two further singles released, and a session for John Peel recorded before the band's debut album, Mesh & Lace, in 1981, the band in the early days showing a strong Joy Division influence. A second Peel session was recorded in October 1981. The follow-up, After The Snow (April 1982), was more keyboard-oriented and was compared to Simple Minds and Duran Duran. It was also released in the United States by Sire Records the following year, where it reached number 70 on the Billboard chart, and sold over 500,000 copies. Grey said of the album, "We used to think 'God, we'll never make a pop record. We're artists!', but things don't always turn out as you planned and when you actually create a pop record, it's so much more of a thrill than anything else". The second single from the album was also a hit in the US, the jangly "I Melt With You" reaching number 78. When he reviewed the album, Johnny Waller of Sounds described the track as "A dreamy, creamy celebration of love and lust, which deserves to be showcased on as 12" single all by itself, with no b-side", while his colleague Tony Mitchell described it as "susburban amateurism at its most unrewarding". The band relocated to New York City and worked on a third album, Ricochet Days, which again made the top 100 in the US, after which the band left 4AD and were solely signed to Sire. The single "Stop Start" (1986) was the last record Modern English record released by Sire, the band splitting up.
Grey and Conroy along with Modern English worked with This Mortal Coil before re-forming Modern English with Mick Conroy and Aaron Davidson for a new album in 1990, Pillow Lips, now on the American TVT label. The album featured a re-recorded "I Melt With You", which was released as a single, and saw the band again in the Billboard top 100. The band split up for a second time in 1991, after contractual problems with TVT, with Grey forming Engine. In 1995, with the legal issues with TVT sorted out, Engine evolved into the next incarnation of Modern English and signed to the Imago label, with Grey and Matthew Shipley (keybaords). This line-up recorded the 1996 album Everything Is Mad.
Robbie Grey toured the US with a new Modern English lineup coast to coast across the US and recorded a new album with Hugh Jones (producer of Melt With You). The songs written with guitarist Steven Walker and other memebers came together on the road and back home in London between tours , after a few years on the shelf this collection of songs was released in May 2010 called "Soundtrack", along side the reissued and remastered "Stop Start" album also released at the same time. The original members reunited & reformed in 2009 and are currently touring; planning for a new release in 2016!
A BRIEF HISTORY OF MODERN ENGLISH
Perspective by Steve Walker (Keyboards)
After the punk explosion in 76/77, Colchester’s first punk band The Lepers formed. With little success and few gigs by the tail end of 78 they were falling apart. The scene had changed and affordable synthesizers had arrived. I was working at Parrot records a small independent and was a friend/helper of the band so it was suggested that if I brought a few synth‘s it would give the band a different sound, moving away from the 2/3 chord thrash which had become old and tired. Mick and Richard had joined and a new direction was being established anyway. I was invited to join and at first just made some weird noises on a few songs which at the time kinda worked. Gradually my sounds improved and I became a full member. I believe it was Richard our drummer who came up with the name, it was from a George Orwell book it seemed very apt at the time for five young cock-sure adolescents who dreamed of leaving a dull and hum drum life for the bright lights etc...
We formed a label and released the first single Drowning Man/Silent World with financial help from Mike Marsh a local entrepreneur who believed in and briefly managed us.
The late/great John Peel played it a few times, enabling us to get some London gigs.
Ivo Watts-Russell and Peter Kent heard it, saw us, liked us and signed us to their new record label, funded by Beggars Banquet called 4ad (though originally it was called Axis).
Swans On Glass followed by Gathering Dust were released, once again John Peel endorsed them and our first session for his show followed.
Smiles & Laughter was released next.
Our first album Mesh & Lace followed and was received well as it climbed the Indie charts.
We then shared a tour with our Essex rivals Depeche Mode as support to Wasted Youth, quickly followed by a short tour with Japan, both bands gave us loads of encouragement and our confidence was high. We did our first gigs around Europe, with good reactions in France, Holland, Belgium, Germany and Italy coming back to our first headlining dates in the U.K. Then our first gigs in the States.
Up until then we had self produced everything we had put out although we had great engineers thanks to Mike Kemp(singles) and Ken Thomas(album) and in-house sleeve designers 23 envelope cannot be excluded. A sound and a style had been created.
We now considered ourselves serious contenders. It was albums like Japan’s Quite Life, Simple Minds Sons And Fascination, Psychedelic Furs, Wire, and I would say Echo and the Bunnymen’s Heaven Up Here, that made us realize that we needed a producer to add that extra weight to our sound.
Enter the God-Like genius of Hugh Jones, in my humble opinion one of the finest there is.
To say we jelled would be an understatement, it was magical.
Previous recordings were rehearsed until we could record in1or 2 takes then add extra parts and overdubs. Hugh stripped us right down and re-built from the drums up. All the instruments were layered and fantastically textured. The band had never sounded so good.
Released in 1982 After The Snow, received mixed reviews and initially sold poorly, in fact it’s never really sold well in the U.K. We did get a little dispirited. However in America things started to take off. A new management team Side One East & West and great support from radio, particularly W.L.I.R. and K.R.O.C. and college stations all over.
I Melt With You was the stand out single choice, we made our first video, which received heavy rotation from the newly established M.T.V. Things started to look a whole lot better.
Back in the studio once again with Hugh the band continued to experiment with different instruments enlisting the help of many great musicians including:-Nicky Holland, String Arrangements Kate St John, Cor Anglais and Oboe Caroline Lavelle, Cello. I am still very proud of the Ricochet Days album and believe it to be a forgotten classic.
The singles and songs chosen for radio play failed to make any real impact in the States and I especially had problems recreating some of the songs live. After another lengthy American tour and some internal problems both myself and Richard Brown were dismissed from the band. There was no big fall-out, both of us just accepted it and went our separate ways. I had little or no contact with the band for the next ten years therefore I can’t really comment on the next three albums, Stop Start, Pillow Lips and Everything Is Mad.
Although I had many regrets and was at times bitter about the split, I went back to record shops managing the Beggars Banquet stores in Kingston and Putney, working with music is my passion and the years flew by. They were such great shops to work in that I gave the band little or no thought.
I attempted band management and production with True Colours releasing a single on our own label, Falling apart at the seams on Body and Soul records, before changing their name to; I Can Crawl and releasing Desert on Zinger records a subsidiary of Static records (home of other underrated bands The Chameleons, The Sound and Jeffrey Lee Pierce)enlisting Hugh Jones for production on a few tracks and Martyn Young of Colourbox helped us with the mixing. Sadly I couldn’t drum up enough interest for them and I parted company before they released a second album Lovenest.
A real shame they were a good band with loads of potential. With the dance boom of the late 80’s I started many tracks that never got finished or if I did finish them they were never released, with the exception of a track called The View by Oosh( better known as Soho who had a hit with Hippy Chic) which I re-mixed with Dj Dave Jarvis who worked with me at Beggars.
After ten years with Beggars I set-up IS Records with a partner, Ian Huckle opening two shops in Northcote Road, near Clapham Common selling new and second-hand music, we lasted six great years before the slow down of record sales became very apparent.
We closed up in 2001, I took some time out became a house hubby looking after my daughter, studied gardening and set-up in business doing that.
During the IS years I had met up with Robbie Grey a few time generally for a kick about (football) on the common and got to meet the new M.E. the other Steve Walker and Matt Shipley, there was talk about a new album and were hoping to get Hugh involved. Also I had a fair bit of contact with Mick Conroy who was keeping me informed on all things M.E. even though no longer in the band, he had spent his time playing in Stereo Lab and Moose but that had come to an end. Also Gary McDowell who now lived in Thailand was in the UK and came to my Birthday Party along with Robbie.
Anyway to cut along story short we were all back on talking terms and I began to take more interest in everything that was going on with the band, there had been quite a few cover versions of I melt with you and it had been used for some commercials and was still getting good airplay particularly in America. Then Nouvelle Vague’s version became a bit of a hit both here and the rest of Europe.It was picked up and used by T-Mobile here and suddenly the song was all over peak time T.V.
Soundtrack was recorded with Hugh Jones at the helm in 2001.I never got to hear it then, neither did many others. The owner of the masters died, the recordings were lost for a while and the band kind of fizzled out.
Mick meanwhile had kept in contact with Josh Zieman from our original management team Side One.
They decided there was enough going on to get the original band back together, so he set the wheels in motion, at the same time the masters were returned to Robbie who managed to secure a release of Soundtrack with Darla records and Stop Start finally came out on CD on Wounded Bird I was asked to rejoin along with Gary, Robbie and Mick, Richard has a few problems which I won’t go into now. It was agreed that Robbie’s songwriting partner of the last ten years, the other Steve Walker should be invited also, he’s a great guitarist and has added an extra dimension to our sound also he’s probably played the songs as much if not more than the rest of us. Ric Chandler joined us on drums. Rehearsals began, we did two short U.S. tours in 2010 and are currently putting together more dates for 2016! We are back. Watch this space.
Jay Aston's Gene Loves Jezebel
For a band to stay relevant across decades is unusual — but to do so with much of the same line-up for most of that time is exceptional. Such is the case with Gene Loves Jezebel, which indicates that these musicians come together not only out of an appreciation for the memorable music they create, but also because they truly like and respect each other. Jay Aston (vocals), James Stevenson (guitars), Pete Rizzo (bass) and Chris Bell (drums) — with Peter Walsh producing — have created extraordinary GLJ songs for 30 years now. With their new album, they honour that legacy by expanding it.
When the group announced a crowdfunding drive for their first album of new material in 14 years, fan response was swift and overwhelming, with donations far exceeding the initial goal. It is impressive, given the length of time since the last GLJ release from these gentlemen, that this outfit still generates this much interest. The band rewarded fans’ loyalty and trust with an intimate look inside the writing and recording process, with members posting frequent social media updates from the studio. Fans loved hearing about the joy and intensity that generate GLJ songs, and in turn, their outpouring of enthusiasm seemed to spur the group to greater levels of creativity. This give-and-take revealed the depth of mutual respect and gratitude between the band and its fans.
It is unsurprising that this edition of GLJ has proven as relevant and creatively vibrant as ever. These are the same members that helped the band achieve many of its biggest successes. This is not to say that any previous incarnations were unsuccessful but with this particular line-up, the GLJ sound crystallized into its most recognizable and enduring form.
GLJ members have always been far more interested in moving forward artistically, rather than dwelling on past achievements, but this reunion seems an appropriate occasion to acknowledge how each has made an integral imprint on the signature GLJ sound. Without any of them, GLJ might not have evolved into a such special entity with passionate fans worldwide.
Jay Aston founded GLJ in London in 1981 and quickly gained a fervent following. Promise, the band’s trailblazing debut, appeared in 1983. Though he shared vocals with his brother Michael, Jay was the primary songwriter. Jay’s songs, spotlighting his uninhibited and highly distinctive singing style, made GLJ instantly memorable and identifiable. Immigrant followed in 1985, marking Pete Rizzo’s first recordings with the band; his inventive and complex bass lines instantly became an essential part of the GLJ sound. The band matured even further on Discover (1986), when James Stevenson joined and demonstrated his talent for delivering guitar work that is both melodic and powerful. (Discover was also the first GLJ album that Peter Walsh was involved in, starting a symbiotic relationship that continues with their new album.) Then, on The House of Dolls (1987), Chris Bell joined the band full-time, his drumming providing a flawless foundation. Michael was largely absent from recording that album, resulting in the four-piece incarnation of Jay, Pete, James and Chris that is still going strong to this day.
It is noteworthy that while GLJ grew increasingly successful with each release, The House of Dolls led to a big jump in their U.K. and U.S. popular chart success, as well as substantial MTV exposure, a trend that continued when this same lineup released Kiss of Life (1990) and the single “Jealous” reached the top spot on the U.S. alternative rock chart. The band had clearly hit its stride, and the artistic achievements continued unabated with the following studio albums: Heavenly Bodies in 1992 (which the band itself considers its finest studio recording — until this new album, that is!), VII in 1999, and The Thornfield Sessions in 2003.
There is a particular ineffable magic in these musicians reuniting as GLJ. Their experience and knowledge add a layer of depth to the music they create together. They refuse to relegate their band to some nostalgia/novelty circuit; you will never find them merely creating a House of Dolls 2.0. Instead, their new release is intense and energetic, reflecting the euphoria found in rekindling a fulfilling long-time dynamic partnership.
Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel had embarked on its next decade of musical excellence. The new album is truly a gift to all their fans who in turn gave a great gift to the band by making its production possible!
$39.50 Advance, $42 Day of Show
Tue, February 25
Thu, February 27
Fri, February 28
Sat, February 29
Thu, March 5