Written by Edmund Barker
To the uninitiated, the genres of goth rock and dance music might not seem like natural bedfellows. After all, how can a scene that’s all about alienation and melancholy be something that you can get up and move to? But the fact is, goth rock has always had a groovy side going back to its origins four decades ago—thanks in no small part to cross-pollination with the nascent synth pop and new wave genres. Pioneering groups like The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Sisters of Mercy had plenty of poppy singles in which club-ready beats combined with lyrics full of paranoia and grim atmosphere. By the time the ’90s rolled around, industrial dance music carried on in the same vein, as Nine Inch Nails mixed catchy hooks with gruesome subject matter in hits like “Closer.”
Nowadays, plenty of acts call themselves goth rock-inspired, but The FMs manage to stand out by truly feeling like a band from the early ’80s—and I mean that in the best possible way. The FMs are loud, in-your-face, and clad in enough fishnets and quasi-bondage gear to make Depeche Mode’s wardrobe seem mild-mannered. The members flaunt an androgynous style (the band name’s short for “femmes”) that feels indebted to the glam rock era. They have a knack for danceable songs rife with apocalyptic gloom, harkening back to the WWIII anxieties that influenced so much of ’80s popular music—the video for their song “Implosion Model” had the band jamming out alongside clips of old nuke tests. With their new track “Eyes Are Suffering,” the band again finds a sweet spot of ominous, chilly electronica and crunching guitars.
But while “Eyes Are Suffering” is a headbanger, their other new song “Extender” goes for a different feel. That track shows the different tones The FMs are capable of, with its slower neo-psychedelic vibe and sense of rising dread. Shimmering guitar chords and scattered, janky beats give the tune a fever dream quality, with the help of lead singer Matt Namer’s wailing, Gary Numan-esque vocals.
As with “Implosion Model,” “Extender” has an artfully simple music video that fits with the track’s eeriness. Surreal figures in vibrant negative color filters flash on screen, while an appealingly ambiguous narrative about tech addiction brings Black Mirror to mind.
I’ve always liked bands that have a clear aesthetic intention in their image and videos, and The FMs have that in spades. If you have a soft spot for the age of safety pins and black leather in rock and roll, you’re in for a good time.