If anyone knows how tumultuous and demanding a long-spanning music career can be, it has got to be London’s long time rock legends FM. Forming in 1984 with the release of their debut album called ‘Indiscreet’ in 1986, FM have been winning over hearts with their emotional and melodic style of music accented by hard rock ‘n’ roll vibes for decades. I would be remiss to not mention their 12 year hiatus between 1995 after the release of their 5th album ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ and 2007 when their return was marked by their first live performance at UK’s Firefest festival. This hiatus, along with some line-up changes only served to energize the band into reaching new heights and forging forwards with their incredible, extensive career.
More recently, the band released their ninth studio album called ‘Heroes and Villains’ in 2015 and a re-recorded 30th anniversary edition of their first album, ‘Indiscreet’, aptly named ‘Indiscreet 30’ in 2016. Now in 2018, FM are ready to drop a new album on us, as well as quite a few tour dates including stunning the world by announcing their first ever American show in Chicago at MelodicRock Fest 5 in May. Coming out on the 30th of March, FM’s 11th album ‘Atomic Generation’ holds 11 tracks of pure FM rock goodness. Featuring Steve Overland on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Jim Kirkpatrick on lead guitar, Merv Goldsworthy on bass, Pete Jupp on drums and Jem Davis on keyboards, keytar and harmonica, their line-up still boasts 3 original members in Overland, Goldsworthy and Jupp. FM have already released two singles with music videos from ‘Atomic Generation’ called ‘Playing Tricks On Me’ and ‘Black Magic’ which can be watched below:
Starting the album with their single Black Magic, this song begins with a funky guitar intro, backed by group vocals that would be echoed well in a live setting. It is immediately clear that Overland’s vocals are better than ever, seemingly untouched even after all this time singing with FM. Kirkpatrick’s guitar solo is perfectly timed and skilful. Black Magic is definitely a modern classic rock anthem with an old groove feel to it.
Too Much of a Good Thing has an atmospheric intro backed by strong drums, guitars and keyboards that give a strong 80’s ballad feel to the song, suiting Overland’s’s vocal style perfectly. Tracks like this one are proof that FM will always be rocking in the past, bringing old school vibes and classic-pop rock melodies back to the world in an act of stubbornness and dedicated love of their genre.
Killed by Love brings the pace up a notch with an uplifting intro made complete by a peppy verse and a chorus that elevates the spirit. The simplicity of this song musically is striking but not to the detriment of the song, FM are a band very well know how to find a good melody and then bleed it dry until they achieve their classic sound.
Song number 4 boasts a heavier groove rock sound in the verses, backed by low distorted guitars and a simple but powerful drumbeat. In it for the Money has a strong apathetic cool cat vibe with the lyrics “I’ve got no conscience, No moral ground, Stand in my way, I’ll shoot you down”, encapsulating the strong-willed vocals that fit well with Goldsworthy’s meaty bass and the power chords that are rife in this song.
Golden Days is an emotional and sentimental track that wistfully reminisces about better days gone past and reflecting on the unfairness of life. This is a song that reflects on the past through rose-tinted glasses, yearning for the best of old memories in favour of the staleness of the present. The lyrics in the chorus represent this simply but emotively: “So take me back, To those golden days, I wanna go back, I wanna feel that way again, All those summer days and nights, They’re the best I ever had”. Although the lyrics are bordering on sappy and the music is no better or worse, the guitar solo was a pleasant, if brief, change of pace.
Playing Tricks On Me begins with a funky intro that devolves into a distinctly Santana-esque guitar solo. The pre-chorus loses the Santana feel briefly before it is brought back for the chorus. I liked that FM brought their own groove and smooth energy to this style of rock, but ultimately this song felt like an unfortunate rip-off attempt.
Track 7 begins with the sound of a rowdy crowd fronted by a great intro by Kirkpatrick on lead guitar. This song has an upbeat classic rock feel, accented by Steve’s dynamic vocals and Jim’s well-placed guitar licks throughout the song. Make the Best of What You Got is a tight song that once again takes a melody by its throat and doesn’t let go.
Follow Your Heart begins with synth and lead guitar before breaking into a catchy keyboard heavy verse with a pop-rock feel that caught my attention and kept it. The chorus takes the power that is built in the verse and takes the song down a more emotional route while still not losing emotive power and focus. The guitar solo is speedy and melodic, accented with neat tapping, providing an excellent release of energy before the song gently hooks back into the chorus. Musically, I feel like this song is the highlight of the album, possessing the most energy and originality.
Do You Love Me Enough is another FM trademark sappy love song and a nice respite after the intensity of Follow Your Heart. The piano in this song is beautifully handled by Davis and it makes me wish I could hear him more clearly in other songs.
Track 10 Stronger begins with a suspense-building keyboard intro followed by a powerful synth-y verse with a solid beat that had me grooving in my seat. The lyrics deliver a message of self-confidence and personal strength, if no one had already guessed from the song’s title.
Love is the Law is a moving acoustic piece preaching the power of love in times of hardship. The music in this song is simple and unchanging, a perfect canvas that is painted with stunning delicacy by Steve Overland’s voice. This gentle and emotion-filled piece is a beautiful way to end any album with thought and inspiration, and FM certainly nailed it with this song.
After listening to this album, while I can appreciate each song individually, I couldn’t help but feel that the band has made no effort to break any new ground. Each song has an ambiguous feeling of having been done before, something which may be a relief to fans who are adverse to change. Personally for me, the album had a slightly stale feeling to it, possibly an unfortunate side effect of being in the game for as long as FM has. Regardless, there were a couple of high points in the album like In it for the Money and Follow Your Heart that have prompted me to give FM’s ‘Atomic Generation’ a rating of 63/100.
Don’t forget, ‘Atomic Generation’ will be available through Frontiers Music on the 30th of March. Have a listen for yourself and see if I’m right!