FM, one of the best rock bands to come out of the UK in the 1980’s are back with a brand new album and this lucky chap has been listening to it almost continually for the last 2 weeks… I love my job! On rock solid British foundations is built that familiar FM sound… very polished and very slick…
Marking the band’s 30th anniversary, Heroes and Villains is FM’s 9th studio album. Long term fans of the band aren’t going to be disappointed either, as right from the opening riff of “Digging up the Dirt” it’s clear that none of their melodic rock sound has been lost. The production is immense without being sterile, allowing the music room to breathe and most important of all, giving it room to ROCK.
The mid-Atlantic sound is to the fore on ‘You’re The Best Thing About Me’ a well-constructed, mid-tempo rocker, perfect for the open highway. Speaking of highway, the next track proclaims ‘Life Is A Highway’ and it’s a belter. A classic slice of AOR with more drive than the Indianapolis Raceway. Once more the sound is crisp, the vocals, with their multi layered harmonies, shine through brilliantly. You can’t help but smile when the guitar solo kicks in and the feel good factor hits top gear. Up next is a superior piece of blues-rock that only a British band can seem to pull off. With a vintage title and timeless riff at its heart, ‘Fire and Rain’ cascade to produce a feast of hard rock essentials served up to perfection by one of the rock world’s best kept secrets. What comes next is ‘Incredible’. It’s often said that things get better with age, like a fine wine. The same can be said of rock bands… The years spent playing together creates a magic so great, that if captured at that special moment, can produce a song of pure brilliance. ‘Nuff said.
We’re in full swing now with the next track ‘Call On Me’ heralding in an as yet unheard element. This track has a refreshing, almost pop feel to it without sacrificing any of their rock credentials. The song is the perfect “palette cleanser” without being disposable. The perfect antidote to the ballad that preceded it and the perfect way to up the tempo. Clever stuff this rock music! ‘Cold Hearted’ struts in with the self-importance any self-respecting rock anthem needs. driven. Headed up by an absolute monster of a guitar riff, this is a tour de force of hard rock. The vocals once again have a starring role in the instantly memorable chorus, all the while being urged on, almost cajoled by that relentless guitar. Up next is the obvious, for my money at any rate, single. It’s upfront, radio friendly from the get go. It has that feel good, almost summertime feeling that rock music used to have in the days before manufactured, corporate pop invaded the music industry.
In a more menacing mood and perfectly in keeping with the title and subject matter, ‘Big Brother’ glowers ominously. Threatening, and vengeful as it stamps it’s authority. Example, if one was needed, of FM’s versatility and ability to embrace modernity without losing any of their “clout”. ‘Somedays I Only Wanna Rock and Roll’ is a sentiment we all share from time to time, another “road song” perfect for those summer days with the top down, equally radio friendly and complete with sax solo. On first listen this would possibly appear to be almost disposable but, having had the chance to listen to the album a number of times now, I can say with all certainty that it will grow on you. Almost annoyingly so!
The modern rocker ‘I Want You’ is filled with enough of that vintage sparkle to make it instantly recognisable and infectiously appealing. With more edge than a knife factory and more laid back drive than a Sunday outing in the country, this song will charm you like Casanova, before jumping you like a thief in the night. If there was a better way to bring this superb album to a close, I couldn’t imagine how great the song would have to be. The law of averages says with only one ballad on the album so far, the last track would be a ballad and with a title like “Walking With Angels”, that assumption would be correct and what a ballad it is. The song that closes this album is one of the finest examples of an acoustic love song you will ever hear. Poetic, symphonic, complex in its simplicity. The perfect end to a truly great album.
It has been both an honour and pleasure to review this album and I can come to only one conclusion. Every home should have one. Rock fan or not. This is, simply, great music.
01 Digging Up The Dirt
02 You’re The Best Thing About Me
03 Life Is A Highway
04 Fire And Rain
06 Call On Me
07 Cold Hearted
08 Shape I’m In
09 Big Brother
10 Somedays I Only Wanna Rock
11 I Want You
12 Walking With Angels
Steve Overland – lead vocals, guitar, Merv Goldsworthy – bass, backing vocals, Pete Jupp – drums, backing vocals, Jem Davis – keyboards, backing vocals, Jim Kirkpatrick – lead guitar, backing vocals.