FM - Indiscreet
The 1980s were most definitely the heyday for all things AOR. Stadium rockers Foriegner gone soft, a retooled Heart and the ever popular Journey ruled the early 80s and waiting in their wings were plenty more bands: Night Ranger, Mr. Mister, the delictable Icon and oh-so many others. Radio was flooded with song after song of U.S. AOR hopefuls trying to hit it big with mainstream friendly tunes while the creams of the crop were across the Atlantic on the other side, such as the killer Scandi outfits, the quite successful Europe and... FM.

Based around the Overland brothers: the blessed voice of Steve and tasteful guitarist Chris, they first were noticed in the band Wildlife that played a bluesier version of rock minus all the swooning melodies and infectious melodies that only AOR can provide. As the AOR outfits gained popularity and such as the already mentioned Europe became household names, it was definitely time to do something different, more mainstream oriented. With Didge Digital on keyboards, Merv Goldsworthy on bass and Pete Jupp on drums, England's rising star, FM, was born.

There were a couple of strikes against them already.. they weren't from America yet their brand of music was very West Coast-ish plus they arrived a little past the expiration date for new bands in the AOR genre, the prime year of 1986. It was their debut, the sparkling gem "Indiscreet" that found a small fanbase, missed the Top 40 boat and sailed away to forever be claimed a classic. Hopes were skyhigh for this band, for "Indiscreet" was so superb, perfect in almost every way, from the lovely pipes of belter Steve Overland (who some have said he could sing a telephone directory and make it sound appealing) to the lush keyboards to be found in each nook and cranny, and overflowing down the sides. Catchy and definitely not heavy, it was candy pop with heart, soul and a soft rounded sound that classified them as 'wussy' with the leather and studs crowd.

The album is 'one paced', settling into a pleasant midrange and sticking there. No jarring rockers or sudden bouts of metalness, its all smooth sailing the entire way. The skies are bright and the music is clear and its a perfect piece for easy listening with the disc's gentle loving caress whispering sweet nothings in your ear. It is beautiful and touching and all around so perfect that it hurts... hurts that FM never made a follow up that came even close to this level of brilliance... hurts that its so one of a kind that many try to duplicate it but come off sounding like second rate copies. Often times peaceful and stirring, but more often than not, over poweringly emotional, one would be hard pressed to call this anything less than exceptional bordering on perfection. For its genre its best of the best.

"Indiscreet" kicks off with a saccharine upbeat classic called "That Girl". A swelling of keyboards subsides into a wave of melodic bliss, Steve Overland's gorgeous voice riding the top with shocking beauty. There is a nice chugging guitar throughout this rather uptempo track that recalls comparisons to a fluffier Foreigner ditty from their mid 80s rockier catalogue (aka "That Was Yesterday"). The electricity breaks free for a string bending delight smack in the middle of the song. The keys create intricate patterns in and around the electric guitar lead and layers of acoustic lighten up the affair while adding another level of depth. Infectious and rousing, its a fine way to begin the disc and is a fan favorite.

"Other Side of Midnight" is a completely different concoction than the first track. The entire *feel* has changed altogether, less Foreigner and more Huey Lewis and the News (remember them, right chaps?) but still as breezy and smooth as anything else on here. The chorus is tightly reined in and addictive, a little repetitive but cool all around, with Overland not hitting quite so many high pitched notes.

"Love Lies Dying", a song that deserves a novel to be written about it, and here the best attempt has been tried to convey how special this song is to a heart that has felt the same. This enters the files of one of the most underrated and overlooked tracks *ever* in my most humble opinion. When hearing people rave about FM (as they most assuredly do in certain circles), "Frozen Heart" is spoke of in adoring tones..."Face to Face" praised to the high heavens and "That Girl" made to seem like the second coming. But while all of those are excellent in their own special ways and so many superb tracks packed on this debut, indecision or even error can be forgiven, you really can't go wrong no matter what tickles your fancy, but surely this one deserves its share just as much, or even moreso than anything else to be found on this album.
The other tracks are good to great, no doubt about it, but "Love Lies..." goes so much beyond that, it's on another pedestal entirely. The bass pulses like an irregular heart beat, the vocals begin in hushed tones but build to breaking timed with the appearance of the drums that whisk away all reality and entrap the listener in this world of heartbroken fantasy. Steve's voice is absolutely powerhouse here, handling the emotive material with profound affection and breathless soul suffering expressed so touchingly.
Its that final grasp to hold on, the shock of a love that simply lies dying, taking its last breaths before expiring but yet you know, oh yes you know, that it still lives on in the heart of one if not the other. The keyboards are front and center, supporting the lead, a sincere comfort in the midst of pain... and the whispered spoken line of "love lies dying" right before the song's midway meltdown sets the soul aflutter. Not a power ballad by any stretch of the imagination, its silken surface is midtempo in nature, probing deeper to discover a multitextured effortless flow that has the consistency of liquid butter and the staying power of a vivid dream. And what else can be said? Well, besides the fact that it is one of the greatest songs of all time... "Who's to say? Things are better left unsaid, or would you rather be mislead, only you can say...and its breaking my heart, tearing me apart, if I can find a way... what can you say?"

Something like "Love Lies..." that puts one through the emotional wringer is tough to follow up for any band, but FM tackles the problem by sliding "Belong to the Night" in right afterward. The keys are prominent with more of a pumping vibe than the tapestry weaving seen in "Love..." that buries itself and buries the seeds of addiction. The chorus blooms with a spectacle of beautiful colour, smelling sweet and addictive. Its uptempo with all the studio tricks one would wish for, and of course that chorus that keeps one coming back for just one more walk in the garden of the night where poppies flourish..

OK so "American Girls" is a blatant attempt at appealing to the American audience, but so what? A million bands had their 'summertime' track, (Y&T's "Summertime Girls" struck it gold from a year before) and this is FM's. The carefree atmosphere of the mid 80s comes through in force, sending one into a flurry of nostalgia. They simply don't make it like this anymore (no matter how hard any one tries, you just can't duplicate the 'real thing'!) Sadly the world (of music and otherwise) is no longer like this any longer... Authentic 86 and West Coast to the core, more than enough reason to love it.

"Hot Wire" is a glossy AOR workout that pulls no punches and delivers it like a fruit smoothie, soft overall but with a juicy pizzaz that can be found all over the place... in the bouncing chorus, cooling off the sizzle of the electric guitar and ensconcing itself heavily inside the melodies. Light, trite and a pleasant diversion, striking comparisions to Shy most of all, its nowhere near the kind of blockbusters seen elsewhere on the disc, still so many other bands would kill to have something of this caliber on their album, but for FM it borders on filler...

Which brings us here "Face to Face". Starting out its life as a ballad in the purest of forms and then cranking up the Yamaha to '10' and pumping out string after string of synthesizer effects that capture the chorus in a prism of electronic light. Melodramatic and switching between full-on 'too mainstream for radio' rock and a couple of winding down periods for a breather. Chris' guitar even struts in full force and packing plenty of melody.

Shining like a delicate star is "Frozen Heart" with its heart of cold and the soft flocked feel of crushed velvet. The keys are everywhere, every nook and cranny filled to the brim, surrounding the listener in an envelope of sound. The exception being some of the verses where it settles down to a light murmur in the background to allow for the vocals to take flight on a sole journey into the bridge and beyond, into the very core of the chorus. It is a cry from the edge of emotion wrapped tightly in an accessible package that is free flowing and definitely of the ballad type without resorting to murky pacing. Dipped in sadness yet still free flying and airy, its tempo is the perfect compliment to the rest of the disc. The melodramatic vocals resound with a steady stream of detached passion, while a shower of frozen stardust ends the song on a poignant note.

"Heart of the Matter" is a fluid hook laden upbeat melodica at its best, the synth is steamy, the melodies are syrupy in that cute and quaint mid 1980s way when 'stripped back' could apply to anything but music of the era. Full bodied and lush in that overly melodic way that screams 'replay' especially in that 'too good to be true' chorus. Nothing that taxes the brain cells, it's simply a pleasurable way to finish off a disc that is pure class.

An elliptic cd of stunning proportions, the future of FM should have been bright. Radio was eating melodic 'rock n romance' stuff up right? And "Indiscreet" has already been built up as a nearly perfect slice of AOR heaven... so what exactly happened? FM tanked faster than the Titanic. "Tough It Out" was a decent followup in a rougher vein that satisfactorily carried the torch, but all that came after was a fast slide into oblivion, key members of the band going their separate ways until as a unit, finally curling up and dying. Maybe it was the pink suits that did them in, but it certainly wasn't the music.

Written by Alanna
Monday, July 9, 2007
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Comment by spike (Member) - Saturday, January 19, 2008
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Simply an AOR classic ignore it at your peril!

Posted by spike
Saturday, January 19, 2008

Comment by mollyhatchet (Member) - Thursday, July 10, 2008
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Too much keyboards only make it a kinda commercial AOR that doesn`t match with their talent. It's insipid and even when you listen to the rest of their discography looks like they're playing the same song. 5/10

Posted by mollyhatchet
Thursday, July 10, 2008

Comment by Tommy (Member) - Sunday, July 20, 2008
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I have to agree with Alanna here, this is in every aspect an unbelievable album, seldom have nine songs stood out so remarkably well. The thrilling, elaborate and versatile key work is one of the best things about it if you ask me.
A true AOR classic packed with effusive and extremely melodic tunes.

Posted by Tommy
Sunday, July 20, 2008

Review by Alanna

Released by
Portrait - 1986

1. That Girl
2. Other Side of Midnight
3. Love Lies Dying
4. Belong to the Night
5. American Girls
6. Hot Wire
7. Face to Face
8. Frozen Heart
9. Heart of the Matter


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