For years acoustic guitars and mouth organs have conjured up ancient images of denim-clad folk singers gurgling about the bomb in tiny clubs, but The Alarm are ringing the changes.
Dexy's might have switched to tramp-chic and the Irish camp-fire, but a couple of years back four fresh-faced kids called The Alarm were storming record company offices armed with acoustic guitars and touting their wares in person - thus avoiding the deadening process of lugging demo tapes on deaf ears.
They said hello via indie single, gigged themselves silly in every hutch in the country and then came breaks. U2 saw them down and asked them to support. The impressed U2 mob became Alarmists and it grew from there.
Their first single for Miles Copeland's IRS label will be 'The Stand', a romping harmonica-led anthem which could easily strike paydirt. Like U2, The Alarm possesses an engagingly enthusiastic innocence and belief in their own mission.
Off you go, Mike: "I think we've had an influence on a lot of groups using acoustic guitars. All our reviews said we used acoustic guitars, which coincided with groups looking for a new direction that wasn't funk."
"We took a year to get where we are now. We didn't bother sending round demos. We'd go in with out acoustics and stand in the office and sing. We had to find a way of making the acoustic not'63 folk but '83 punk, so it wouldn't be wimpy but hard and real. We're getting there now, but we're still in the early stages of development." That development started for Mike when he was going to school in Prestatyn, Wales, with Eddie MacDonald and they started the first of many groups latching onto passing fashions like mod and punk. Meanwhile, Dave Sharp and Nigel Twist were at school in Manchester and had groups going since they were eight.
Attempts at starting a local scene among the big fishes of Prestatyn's small pond fell flat. So Mike and Eddie packed their underpants and headed for the bright light of London and got the band together going with Dave and Nigel. There followed a relentless display of pure determination and hassling people in the right positions.
The supports with U2 seem to have been the turning point. Last month The Alarm climbed onstage at U2's Brighton gig for the encore and got a skyhigh showing on the old clapometer.
Mike :"When U2 were starting to get into acoustic instruments for their second album, Bono really fell in love with The Alarm. He's been really helpful to us. When we play with U2 it's that whole feeling and attitude. It's the same with Wah! and The Jam.
"It's belief in yourself, one hundred per cent commitment. Blood and sweet. We just try to present good music, good lyrics, good tunes and good fun. We want our songs to be heard in ten years' time. We're all fans of music first and foremost. That's why we're built up with U2. We've played with Jake Burns and The Beat. We're fans of those bands, which we used to follow around. When we get on stage we're still fans and we want The Alarm to be loved onstage by the kids at the front. That's where it all comes from. We know what the kids want to see. If they didn't see it in The Alarm I'd be disappointed. So many bands get blinded - I'm in a group and that's it. They don't look at it from the front row.
They're not prepared to go down really bad. Some of the best moments in rock 'n' roll history have been really bad."
Why are you called The Alarm?
Mike :"We'd all been in different groups and seen bands like The Clash and the Pistols. I wrote my first song, which was called 'Alarm' and it was the most positive thing I'd done in my life. When we formed the group we asked 'why did we start the band?' After seeing The Clash. 'What was the first thing we did?' Wrote a song called 'Alarm'. That's it."
Dave: "First off all we were going to be was skiffle band because we couldn't afford instruments." If The Alarm mosey into your town you'll notice a colourful collection of cowboy hats, bootlace ties and cowboy boots draped over their frames. Clint clones or what?
Dave: "It just came about. We started wearing a bit if this and that and it just rubbed off on each other. We wanted to identify ourselves as The Alarm and no-one else. We wanted to stand out in the crowd but the music is more important."
The notches on those guitars are getting bigger every day.