Let’s get a few things straight before we consider the matter in hand, viz reviewing the new FM album, a reworking of their classic Indiscreet debut from 1986.
(1) FM are one of the UK’s great, most underrated bands.
(2) Indiscreet is the greatest British AOR album ever made, and
(3) Steve Overland is the finest voice in British rock bar none.
There, now we’ve got those irreducible facts down for posterity, onto business.
When I heard that FM were going to re-record their classic 1986 debut, I must admit I was filled with trepidation. Indiscreet, whilst not perfect – due to a lack of a big recording budget the band just couldn’t produce an album that sounded as big as the US bands it sought to usurp – was and is pretty damn close, and to this day they still haven’t managed to better songs such as That Girl or I Belong to the Night. Or for that matter Dangerous, which they wrote at the same time and didn’t even make it onto the album…
However, FM were only truly an AOR band for this one album, opting on second album Tough it Out to go for a bluesier sound whilst retaining a stadium rock vibe a la Bon Jovi; So again my worries were sparked by sheer dint of the fact that FM in 2016 are a very different band to the one they were in 1986, both personnel-wise and sonically. The more I thought about it, the more worried I became…
And partially my worries were, I think, justified. Indiscreet 30 doesn’t work completely. In parts it sounds as fresh as it did way back when – but the big numbers – That Girl, I Belong to the Night, Hot Wired – just fall a bit flat, certainly in terms of production if nothing else. In places the band sound like their pre-FM incarnation Wildlife, as if the whole thing has come full circle for the band, and although that almost certainly wasn’t the intention it does seem to make a little sense. Elsewhere, however, the idea works perfectly. The Other Side of Midnight and American Girls both work beautifully in this new context, knocking any doubts you might have about the validity of the project into a conveniently-placed cocked hat.
At the end of the day, to use a cliché, this is what it is; a venerable hard rock band revisiting a style of music they don’t really play anymore, and just failing to do the material the justice it deserves as a consequence. Drummer Pete Jupp plays a blinder throughout, recreating his parts perfectly, whilst ‘new’ guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick stays largely faithful to Chris Overland’s original lead work. And Steve Overland? He sounds a bit longer in the tooth, sure – but he’s a professional and he’s approached these songs to get the best out of his voice as it is in 2016 rather than trying to ape what he did four decades ago. Like I said, he’s Britain’s finest rock voice, and he underlines that here at every chance he gets.
There are seven (!) non-album bonus tracks tacked on the end, the best being a new version of 1987 single Let Love Be the Leader and a very classy acoustic version of That Girl; Fans of Ozzy Osbourne will also note that FM’s version of the Ultimate Sin hit Shot in the Dark (written by former Wildlife man Phil Soussan, with, I think, some help from the Overland brothers) is featured here too.
There are too many good things about this project to let the failures stop you from buying it – any chance to hear Steve Overland song is a chance worth taking after all; But don’t expect a mega-modern AOR treatment of Indiscreet, because you’ll be disappointed if you do.