FM – Rockville

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Review by Paul Quinton

Sometimes FM must wake up in the morning, look at themselves in the mirror and think ‘What the hell?’ Looking around and seeing all the things they could, and arguably should, have had the first time around, critical acclaim, near sell-out gigs, appearing at big festivals across Europe, even airplay on Radio 2, events since their reforming in 2007 must be a source of satisfaction, pleasure and even vindication. The first album since getting back together, Metropolis was a terrific record, and the care and time that the band took in making it, choosing not to rush something out just to capitalise on the immediate post-reformation euphoria, was more than justified.

But now the pressure is on to follow it up, and good grief, have they succeeded, because Rockville is an absolutely terrific record. In their first incarnation, there always seemed to be an inner conflict between the band’s  bluesy leanings and the pressure from the fan-base to keep producing sequels to the earlier albums like Indiscreet and Tough it Out and on the first two tracks on Rockville, FM show how to combine both of these styles into one glorious whole. Opener ‘Tough Love’, also the set opener for the recent tour, is ridiculously catchy, while ‘Wake Up The World’ begins like a Bad Company track before one of those typically infectious FM choruses weighs in.

After that, there are almost too many highlights to list in a short review. ‘Only Fooling’ was the first track from the album to be heard, included on an EP released before Christmas 2012, and it’s almost impossible not to nod the head, tap the feet or hum along. ‘Crave’ is an object lesson in how to write a melodic rock song and then there’s the huge ballad ‘Story Of My Life’, and all that’s before you even get to ‘Crosstown Train’, arguably the best track on the whole album, with an absolutely belting chorus, and the great Steve Overland at the absolute top of his vocal game. This song has been a feature on Planet Rock for a couple of months now and it’s one of the best things the band have ever done, a song ideal for catapulting the band into the big league, where they surely belong.

I didn’t quite get Rockville when I first heard it, and didn’t really think it matched up to the staggeringly good comeback that was Metropolis. Several further listens and I know just how wrong first impressions can be. This is a fine, fine record, right up there with anything the band have done in their history, and fit to stand alongside the best achievements of the British melodic rock scene. Each time I write about FM, I feel compelled to describe them as the UK’s greatest ever melodic rock band, but they just keep giving me evidence to back that claim up. Anyone with any aspirations to take over from them can stop trying for now, there’s currently no vacancy, nor likely to be any time in the near future, if Rockville is anything to go by.

Not only that but after completing the album, the band found they had a fair collection of songs that didn’t make the final cut, ten of which have been collected on a companion album, cunningly titled Rockville II. All I can say is that if these are second choices, there are an awful lot of bands out there who would love these songs on their own records. It’s slightly more experimental than Rockville proper. ‘Runaway Train’ has a touch of electronica in the rhythm section before heading into epic Zeppelin territory (and check out Jim Kirkpatrick’s bluesy intro, very nice), ‘Guilty’ and ‘Last Chance Saloon’ could easily be country hits were someone like Keith Urban to get hold of them, and there’s also several instances of some nice dual guitar from Overland and Jim Kirkpatrick, which is something that the band might think worth using in the future. The overall atmosphere is a little more laid back than on the main album and although these are tracks that didn’t make Rockville itself, Rockville II is definitely a worthwhile listen in its own right.

Rockville: 9 out of 10

Rockville II: 7.5 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Tough Love
  2. Wake Up The World
  3. Only Fooling
  4. Crave
  5. Show Me The Way
  6. My Love Bleeds
  7. Story Of My Life
  8. Better Late Than Never
  9. Crosstown Train
  10. Goodbye Yesterday
  11. High Cost of Loving