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FM: Heroes and Villains

I think I have a fairly stereotypical relationship with FM. They were a band I saw a lot of in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I utterly loved Indiscreet and Tough it Out. I even memorably set off to see them at Saint David's Hall in Cardiff before realising that it was the wrong day! They introduced me to Romeo's Daughter something I will be forever grateful for. I am confident that I could listen to Steve Overland sing an Ed Sheeran song and enjoy it. Equally, I really didn't enjoy the Takin' it to the Streets album nor much of Aphrodisiac. The guitar playing of Chris Overland's replacement Andy Barnett left me colder than a polar bear's privates and I was saddened but not grief stricken by their eventual demise. That said, I have very much enjoyed their comeback with Jim Kilpatrick on the six strings alongside the aforementioned Overland, Merv Goldsworthy on bass, drummer Pete Jupp and Jem Davies on keyboards. Furthermore, I am also of the opinion that the best FM album of the past two decades is Steve Overland's Epic album which was released on Escape Music and is well worth the time of day if you like classic period FM.

Rather like Europe (the band) FM have returned with a sound that has veered well away from what the band is best known for. They no longer make super-shiney fluffy, keyboard-driven anthems but unlike Europe they still remain at least in touching distance with the genre of preference which the fand know and love. I have read and heard complaints that FM have become too blues based over recent albums. Nothing could be further from the truth, the ghost of Robert Johnson is nowhere to be found on Heroes and Villains.

What is on Heroes and Villains is a collections of organic, catchy melodic rock songs all underpinned by Jim Kilpatrick's always spot-on but never overly flashy guitars and the ultra-solid rhythm section of Jupp and Goldsworthy. Jem Davies is much less flashy than his much loved predecessor Didge Digital but works perfectly within the new sound. Mostly though the songs are from the top draw, more groove based than first time around ("Digging Up The Dirt", "Cold Hearted" and "Big Brother" being prime examples) and of course there's the obligatory ballad for Overland to sing the living daylights out of ("Incredible".) The track which has taken me the longest to get into is "Life Is A Highway" which initially appeared to have a chorus which belonged to a different song than the verses before revealing itself as a sort of Doobie Brothers driving song (dur, should have worked it out from the title.) There are classic whoas all over "Shape I'm In" and there's even an attempt at lumpen rock & roll in the unsurprisingly titled "Somedays I Only Want To Rock & Roll" which has a certain quaintness about it. Heroes and Villains continues one of the more welcome comebacks of recent years.

Track Listing:

  1. Digging Up The Dirt
  2. You're The Best Thing About Me
  3. Life Is A Highway
  4. Fire & Rain
  5. Incredible
  6. Call On Me
  7. Cold Hearted
  8. Shape I'm In
  9. Big Brother
  10. Somedays I Only Want To Rock & Roll
  11. I Want You
  12. Walking With Angels

Added: April 18th 2015
Reviewer: Simon Bray
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 3038
Language: english

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FM: Heroes and Villains
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2015-04-18 09:39:40
My Score:

Having risen from the dead thanks to the badgering of the much missed Firefest festival, UK AOR masters FM have simply gone from strength to strength; albums lauded by the critics, singles played on national radio and countless appearances at high profile festivals. The main reason for this has simply been that not only are FM a much loved act of the 80s and 90s, but their albums since their return have been universally excellent. Heroes & Villains is no different.

Using the adage, "if it ain't broke, why fix it?", as a starting point for this album, H&S will surprise no one, for this good time melodic rock couldn't be anyone other than FM and yet when a band is as truly on form as this, that can only be an enormous plus point. Having added guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick to the line-up on their return, the pairing of one of the best guitarists in the scene to, arguably, the best melodic rock voice the UK has produced, in the shape of Steve Overland, has been a sure fire winner. It is a point slammed home time and again here. Start an album as you mean to go on is an ethos more bands should adhere to, so when "Digging Up The Dirt" gleefully romps from the speakers, things are immediately where you'd hoped they'd be; killer choruses, sharp guitars, and smooth keys from the ever underrated Jem Davis. However if that sounds simply like every other MHR album reviewed this side of Christmas, then you need to take into account the power packed punch of Pete Jupp behind the kit and Merv Goldsworthy (who would actually appear to have hair under that previously ever present hat!) on bass, who add a smack of authority so many bands forget to think about. Oh and did I mention vocals to die for? I did? Good!

Really, whether you're getting caught up in the good time groove of "You're The Best Thing About Me", the mid-paced, Def Leppard have been trying to write something this good for decades of "Incredible", or the bold and brash chant along of "Cold Hearted", FM are on fire here. However the grinding throb of "Call On Me" provides something a little more modern, with grittier guitars and layered vocals jostling neatly with a trademark chorus, while the beautiful "Walking With Angels" offers an acoustic guitar led showcase of that voice in a simply captivating and expertly arranged manner; strings adding a different aspect.

For many, AOR is seen as simple and formulaic and yet when the best in the genre reveal their craft, then those small minded and misinformed opinions pale into insignificance. FM have provided exactly such an album here. I'm not sure who the villains are, but there's no doubt FM are the heroes.

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