REGARDED by many as the UK's answer to Bon Jovi in the eighties, FM will release their fourth studio album since their return from hiatus in 2008, 'Heroes and Villains', on April 17th, but are they still relevant and interesting?
Turns out they are.
These fine exponents of melodic rock music have produced quite possibly their best album since 'Aphrodisiac' in '92. The classic sound is there but a little rockier and up tempo than last years 'Rockville I & II'.
Steve Overland is simply one of the best rock singers these shores have produced and Jim Kirkpatrick's guitar oozes class with some big bluesy licks with no shortage of funk.
The rhythm section of Merv Goldsworthy (bass) and Pete Jupp (drums) is solid and keeps the whole groove going along nicely. Add Jem Davis with his Moog synth and Mellotron and Hammond organs and you get a slightly retro feel.
The album was self produced and a damn fine job they made of it too!
Starting with the Def Leppardesque 'Digging up the Dirt' the band set the tone with a not so subtle dig at the tabloid presss.
'You're The Best Thing About M'" is a mid tempo rocker that is a throw back to earlier albums and as catchy as hell, again with an underlying Def Leppard riff and background vocals.
'Life is a Highway' is another melodic rocker with a catchy tune, great chorus and nice lead break from Jim and is reportedly one of the band's favourites on the album.
'Fire and Rain' has a haunting funky start before turning into one of the heavier, bluesy riff inspired tracks with more than a hint of Paul Rodgers and Bad Company.
Of course no FM album can call itself that without the good old power ballad and 'Incredible' fits the bill nicely with acoustic guitar and the inclusion of a string quartet.
The pace lifts again with 'Call on Me' ,originally recorded during the Metropolis album sessions, and revamped for this album with a huge chorus and a great hooky solo.
Next up is a song featured on last years 'Futurama EP', 'Cold Hearted' . A bluesier and funkier number which is already a live favourite.
'Shape I'm In' and 'Big Brother' follow. The former, another song with a bluesy riff about lost love, the latter about, to use the bands words, "the ever increasing Orwellian world we live in"
Track 10 is the Rolling Stones inspired 'Somedays I Only Wanna Rock and Roll' which has a nice bit of Sax at the end.
The penultimate track 'I Want You' is another old school melodic blues FM number which includes the obligatory hand claps in the chorus....yeah!
And now we come to the final track 'Walking With The Angels'... A stripped down acoustic number about finally finding your true love that has haunting vocals,subtle keyboards and the string quartet again. Quite possibly one of the most beautiful songs you will heart in 2015.
Sun Tzu proclaimed "There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard"
Think the old Chinese master of warfare might've nicked that from FM.
If you love your AOR then Heroes and Villians should be on your shopping list.
Review by Andy Gillen