Here’s a band that pretty much pulled the rug from under my feet when they released their “comeback” album Rockville back in 2013. The brilliance of that album came as a surprise to me as I had never been much of a FM fan before. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think they were a bad band at all, it’s just that I could never subscribe to the accolades of their debut album Indiscreet from 1986. Sure, it’s a good album but I still don’t think it’s that special. I do love the follow-up Tough It Out (1989) but that’s the only FM record I hold as great. Until the arrival of Rockville, that is. On that album – and on its follow-up Rockville II (2013) – FM took a dive into Classic Rock waters without leaving all of their AOR and Melodic Rock roots behind, something that was completed on the equally brilliant Heroes And Villains (2015). It was a change that I believe suited FM like a charm but it wasn’t only the addition of Classic Rock that made those albums great – that was mostly down to the high song-quality.
So, from being moderately interested in this band, I became a big fan – well, at least a big fan of their three latest albums. But as the band is on Frontiers Records and knowing that the Frontiers guys have a tendency to try to steer old bands into going in the direction that once made them famous – and the fact that the band released a rerecorded version of their debut album, called Indiscreet 3.0, for the album’s 30th anniversary, that became quite successful, I was wondering whether the time would come when FM would do exactly that, go back to their AOR days and make an album fully within that genre. I was wondering because it’s time for a new FM album. Not that it have to be a bad thing, it’s just that I believe that the style they have on their later albums suits them so damn well.
Well, to judge by opening track and first single “Black Magic”, there’s no need to worry. It’s a Classic Rock stomper that holds a funky guitar, a big, fat groove, slightly Led Zeppelin influenced here and there and a meaty drive that will without a doubt work brilliantly from the stage. But it also holds a chorus that’s rooted in 80’s Arena Rock which makes the tune catchy as Hell and it’s understandable why they chose it as the leading single. Awesome stuff. But as soon as yours truly had breathed a sigh of relief, “Too Much Of A Good Thing” comes in and takes us right back to the days when FM were all AOR. The Pop arrangement is all over the track and even though it goes into Melodic Rock territory, it’s the AOR that rules the song. But you know what? I doesn’t matter one tiny bit because the song’s addictive refrain takes me to the moon and back and there’s no way I’ll complain about them going back to their roots when the tune is as awesome as this. I say more power to them instead.
FM stays on the AOR route with “Killed By Love”, a straight-forward Pop song that comes with a main melody that’s so contagious no vaccine in the world will help – and I haven’t even mentioned the chorus. So I will and say that the chorus is catchier than catchy and once you get introduced to it, all you can do is to surrender. This so speaks to my saccharine vein – I just love it. And just when I have gotten comfy with that, FM decides to go heavier and darker. “In It For The Money” brings up the subject of musicians that will do anything for a buck (“I’ve got no conscience, no moral ground”) and it shows that FM is aggravated by that (am I the only one who think of that Gene guy now?). It’s still very melodic but more gritty and is more Hard Rock than anything else. Very good. With a title like “Golden Days”, a song about FM’s golden days, a more AOR and poppy sound is expected and that’s what we get. The tune is soft rock in an almost West Coast way, but it’s uptempo with a bit of a Def Leppard influence. Very catchy and very good.
Latest single “Playing Tricks On Me”, however, takes a very different turn. Here’s a big Classic Rock tune that brings in a Santana influence, Soul and a horn section that gives the song a swing that’s insane. Add a funky guitar, a highly groove-laden rhythm section and a chorus that’s impossible to get out of the brain and it stands clear that the song’s a total winner and a stand-out track on the album. Pure brilliance! The Classic Rock hangs with us on “Make The Best Of What You Got” but it’s mixed with twists of Melodic Rock and its refrain sports a big Arena Rock vibe and it holds true to the style of their three latest albums. Which means another killer track! The energetic “Follow Your Heart” takes us back to the more AOR-ish sound but it’s built on a Classic Rock foundation and a pretty edgy groove. The chorus is catchy without being mawkish at all – an affable tune.
With “Do You Love Me Enough” comes the mandatory power ballad – and I mean that in the best of ways. Because these guys really knows how to write ’em – emotional, soulful, heartfelt and powerful. It’s catchy as can be and very, very memorable. It’s an awesome track and I can see no reason what so ever not to release this as a single. But after a ballad we need to rock and with “Stronger” that’s what we do. It’s more in the Classic Rock meets Melodic Rock vein, complete with a rhythmic groove, an enraged organ and a tough beat. It comes in a slower pace and the Arena Rock influenced refrain hits right where it should. FM closes the record with a slow, heartfelt, acoustic guitar based gorgeous ballad called “Love Is The Law”. A lap steel brings on a small Country vibe but it never gets sugary at all, it’s just a beautiful ballad that ends the album on a really comfortable note.
FM could have called this album “The Best Of Both Worlds” because that’s exactly what we get here. Fans of FM’s classic AOR sound will get their share of that and for us who loves their later, raunchier, Classic Rock influenced sound gets that as well. Yes, this album is very much a mix of both, but what’s more important, the high quality song writing is still here. Sound wise, it’s not that different to their later efforts, a quite dynamic production with a meaty rock touch that holds a smooth sound scape. My worries that FM would go all the way back to AOR was completely unfounded but in hindsight it wouldn’t have mattered because when they’re there, they show everyone how the big boys do it. A diverse and pretty unpredictable – for this genre – album is what FM has given us here and this band shows no signs of stagnate or losing any song writing abilities. In the future I will worry no more!
More FM reviews:
1. Black Magic
2. Too Much Of A Good Thing
3. Killed By Love
4. In It For The Money
5. Golden Days
6. Playing Tricks On me
7. Make The Best Of What You Got
8. Follow Your Heart
9. Do You Love Me Enough
11. Love Is The Law