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Music Review: FM – Metropolis

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FM were everywhere in the mid-eighties. The rock press hailed them as the next big thing. This was the UK showing the colonials how we could do AOR/melodic rock as well as them, if not better. Formed from the ashes of Wildlife, a band that featured Bad Company’s Simon Kirke, FM seemed to have it all after signing a major deal with CBS/Portrait.

However, their debut album, Indiscreet, wasn’t as good as people thought it was, and despite lengthy bouts of touring alongside the likes of Meat Loaf, Foreigner, Gary Moore and Status Quo, along with opening slots for REO Speedwagon and Bon Jovi on the latter’s Slippery When Wet tour, the press furor just didn’t translate into record sales.

After switching to Epic Records, the main writers in the band, Chris and Steve Overland, went over to America on a writing trip with Desmond Child, and the record company handed over the cash for hot-shot producer, Neil Kernon, showing that the company certainly had faith in FM, with the resulting follow-up album, Tough It Out, which was heads and shoulder above their debut. But yet again, the public weren’t buying it.

The inevitable line-up changes started to happen and after their third album, Takin’ It To The Streets, it was off to the minor leagues for FM for their final couple of albums before they ultimately called it a day in 1995. And that should have been that. However, over a decade later, FM were back playing live at the UK Firefest show and back in the recording studio releasing an EP, and now this album, Metropolis.

Alongside original member Steve Overland on vocals and former Samson men, bassist Merv Goldsworthy and drummer Pete Jupp, this album sees a first outing for new guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick and keyboard player Jem Davis, who is a New Wave of British Heavy Metal stalwart from his days with Tobruk, as well as having subsequently toured with UFO and Praying Mantis.

And it’s pretty much as though the intervening decades never happened. This could easily have slotted into the bluesy, melodic-rock groove they had started to plow in the early nineties, and if none of it is truly outstanding, then there is still a lot to enjoy. Steve Overland is in fine voice, and even if I never bought into the whole Great British rock singer label that was applied to him, he is a very good singer, and his voice suits the material.

Musically, they’re operating in a world that fans of Thunder, Aerosmith and Gotthard will find very familiar, and there are some excellent songs on offer, as with the classic rock groove of “Flamingo Road,” my particular favorite. They’re happy to throw in a few West Coast vibes on songs like “The Extra Mile” and for fans of the earlier, smoother FM sound, then “Who’ll Stop The Rain” will keep them very happy indeed. And if you’re the person for whom the phrase “more cowbell” was invented, then “I Ain’t The One” is the song for you. It’s been well produced and sounds like major label money has been thrown its way, even if was actually recorded on an indie budget.

It’s as if the intervening 15 years never happened, resulting in an enjoyable album from start to finish, one that melodic rock fans should take to their hearts. And as a reminder of the days when UK bands tried to take on America at their own game, it works a treat.

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About Stuart A Hamilton