WHO ARE THEY? The Welsh post-punk rockers whose anthemic, acoustic-based rabble-rousers like 68 Guns and The Stand prompted critics in the ’80s to compare them to U2 — and prompted countless fans to back-comb their hair, wrap bandanas around their necks and cut the sleeves off their black dress shirts.
WHAT IS THIS? Their umpteenth album, the followup to last year’s cut-from-the-same-cloth outing Equals, and their latest to repurpose songs from their Blood Red and Viral Black albums of 2017.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? At its best, ∑ Sigma — yes, that’s the actual title — sounds like The Alarm of old, with frontman and sole remaining member Mike Peters throwing back his head and unleashing big ideas, big hooks and bigger choruses. At its most disappointing, it reminds you more of Bryan Adams or Neil Diamond — or how U2 might have ended up had things gone differently.
WHAT WOULD BE A BETTER TITLE FOR THIS ALBUM? Still Standing.
HOW SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? While wearing your old sleeveless black dress shirts and bandanas — or your parents’.
WHAT 10 WORDS DESCRIBE IT? Anthemic, soaring, epic, grand, passionate, sincere, thoughtful, stirring, uplifting, optimistic.
WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? Blood Red Viral Black quite rightly gets the blood pumping, and includes a solo from Cult guitar hero Billy Duffy. Brighter Than the Sun, Equals and Prisoners deftly bounce between moody verses and giant choruses. And Love and Understanding packs some rousing punk punch.
WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY SAY? ‘Hey, is that my bandana?’
HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO THIS? A few times — especially if you’re an old fan. But it’s not consistently compelling enough to earn a spot in regular rotation.
IF THIS ALBUM WERE A SENIOR CITIZEN, WHAT KIND OF SENIOR CITIZEN WOULD IT BE? An old leftie who still flies the flag at marches.
SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL? Stream it once and cherrypick the best cuts.