The Alarm.  Photo by Andy LaBrow

What songs define the ’80s for you?

“How Soon is Now” by The Smiths and “I Melt With You” by Modern English are two biggies for me. I was lucky enough to have seen The Smiths and got to hear “How Soon is Now” live. Catching Modern English live, however, has eluded me until now.

They’ll share the bill with The Alarm and Jay Ashton’s Gene Loves Jezebel at Aura, and it will be quite something to sing the “hmmm hmmm hmmm” part of the song with my fellow fans. I don’t remember the exact moment I first heard “I Melt With You,” but the most memorable was during the Julie and Randy romance montage scene in quintessential Nicolas Cage ’80s film “Valley Girl.” It’s a timeless classic, no two ways about it, and despite hearing it at least a trillion times I still love it. Who’s with me?

Gene Loves Jezebel is the British band formed in 1980 by twin brothers Jay and Michael Ashton. A lifetime ago I saw them share a bill with Echo & The Bunnymen and New Order, and at the time their big song was “Desire.” It’s a spitfire ’80s alternative gem with the scream-along refrain of “What you get is what you see … Desire!” I am certain several of us will belt that out at the Portland show.  “Heartache” and “Cow” are a couple of other songs of note, and it will be a trip to revisit them live. A rift between the brothers means that these days there are two versions of the band, each fronted by one of them. The Aura show will feature the Jay Ashton version.

This brings me to the show’s headlining act. The Alarm is a Welsh act formed and still fronted by lead singer Mike Peters. Its debut album is 1984’s “Declaration” with the singles “Sixty Eight Guns” and “The Stand.” Both songs have a political kind of urgency to them, and they came into my life mostly by way of MTV. In 1987 the band released its third album, “Eye of the Hurricane,” with the song “Rain in the Summertime.” Simple math tells me that I’ve wanted to hear this song live for 32 years, and I imagine other fans of The Alarm feel the same way. Peters told me during a telephone conversation while on his way to Joshua Tree National Park that he doesn’t remember the band ever playing in Maine, although he did visit Portland a number of years ago.

The reason for the band’s current tour is its new album “Sigma,” released earlier this summer. This is the band’s 17th album, and after listening to tracks like “Can You Feel Me?” and “Brighter Than The Sun,” I scolded myself for letting The Alarm slip through the cracks all these years. Peters said he’s thrilled about the positive reviews “Sigma” has been getting. “It was the No. 1 record in the U.K. when it came out, and we’ve never really had anything like that happen to us before,” he said.

I complimented Peters on the song “Peace Now” from last year’s “Equals” album for its firm but positive message in a world gone crazy. “All of a sudden it became a very destabilized world that we were living in with all the things that were happening in Europe with Brexit and then having a president like Mr. Trump makes everybody have question everything around them,” said Peters about the song’s inspiration.

Peters said all three bands on the tour are making new music and will, of course, play the ’80s tunes they’re known for. I’ll stop the world and melt with you at Aura, my fellow 80s-minded music lovers. It surely will be a nostalgic evening but also one with some current work from all three bands, which seems fitting because, after all, the future’s open wide. Hmmm Hmmm Hmmm.

The Alarm with Modern English and Jay Ashton’s Gene Loves Jezebel
9 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20. Aura, 121 Center St., Portland, $30 in advance, $35 day of show, 18-plus. auramaine.com


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