FM – Thirteen (2022) HQ

FM - Thirteen (2022) full

March 18, 2022 will see the release of British melodic rock stalwarts FM‘s thirteenth studio album, the appropriately titled “Thirteen“. Produced by the band, “Thirteen” is yet another high-quality album that furthers the band’s standing as one of the premiere melodic rock / AOR entities in the world.
The band’s current line-up, in place since 2008, has spent the last decade plus writing, recording, and touring and thus is an incredibly gelled and cohesive unit. The rhythm section of bassist Merv Goldworthy and drummer Pete Jupp anchor FM with a rock-solid backbone, while guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick delivers delicious hooks and melodies with keyboardist Jem Davis adds lush layers to the band’s dynamic sound. And what more could be said about Steve “The Voice” Overland, whose golden pipes have easily withstood the test of time and who still sings like an angel, while adding delightful guitar parts to the proceedings.
The five-piece once again bonds together as the mighty unit FM on “Thirteen” and delivers beautiful melodic rock that their fans have come to expect.

There are a few tracks on here which stand up with the best of the band’s back catalogue, and the album is a true FM record in all aspects.
An impressive sonic intro kicks us off with Shaking The Tree, a slow-burning rocker with a wicked hook in the pre-chorus that leads to the top-quality harmonies from Steve Overland in the chorus. There is an echo of some classic Dan Reed in the beat, and some superb guitar work from Jim Kirkpatrick that will become more apparent with every listen.

The opening to Waiting On Love is pure classic FM, and the track has all the hallmarks of a commercial radio smash, with a bouncy melodic rock verse backed by a tasty little riff, some lush backing vocals, soaring harmonies and a catchy chorus. Jim delivers another slick and melodic guitar solo before another reprise of the chorus, interspersed with Overland’s extraordinary voice that shares the fade out with the guitars.
Talk Is Cheap has that slightly dirty rock sound that the band delivers at least once on most albums, although the riff is countered by the lighter keyboards from Jem Davis, and the chorus is more pop than rock, providing a real contrast within the track. Merv Goldsworthy shows off a dextrous bass line throughout, and is in complete lock-step with Pete Jupp on the drums, solid as Cozy Powell in his prime.

Turn This Car Around blasts out of the pits like an FM-classic AOR rocker, all cranking guitars and powerhouse keyboards over a pulsating beat, and rolls into another great chorus. The multi-layered vocals are a joy – there are few superlatives left to describe just how good Steve O’s range continues to be.
There is a cool twang to the intro Love And War that harks back to Dead Man’s Shoes, and the main riff is belter. The chorus also has that old-school FM sound, and it would be easy to simply knock the band for re-hashing past glories without delivering anything new.

The almost 6-minute epic ballad Long Road Home delivers on all levels. Again, the guitars and piano give a slightly modern-country feel, and the harmony vocals are awe-inspiring, while Jim can be heard delivering tasteful guitar-licks alongside the keyboards in the background. The track has a wonderful mid-section that leads into a top-notch solo, restrained but impassioned, that perfectly fits the tone of the track.
Pete Jupp kicks off Be Lucky, which is all bass and drums through the verse, with an earworm guitar line underneath the voice. The chorus has a complex vocal arrangement which the band absolutely nail, allowing Steve to soar around the main structure, and this is continued through the middle-eight.

A blistering riff opens up Every Man Needs A Woman, and the track does a great job of showcasing the various band talents in the complex verse instrumentation, before it all piles into the immense voice-led chorus. The band show-off a bit in the segment before Jim tears into the solo of the album, and as you draw breath from that, the voice then takes over to deliver an intense howl before ripping into the climactic choruses. A synth-driven intro to Just Got Started then sees guitar and voice deliver a melodic duet over the semi-industrial backing, before the joyful harmonies of the pre-chorus, and the up-tempo chorus that follows. This is an example of where FM can occasionally test the boundaries of their sound, and it works – still FM but with a bit of an edge. I love the guitar work mid-song and another crisp solo from Jim then leads into the closing choruses while he is still working the fretboard behind the vocals.

There is another powerful melodic rocker in Fight Fire With Fire that is true FM in all respects, but very much the 2022 band, not the 1986 version. Complex structures, layers of vocal harmonies, guitar wizardry and those keyboards adding texture, while bass and drums secure the beat – this track can go on and on without the fade-out from my side – and I really hope this finds its way into the live set.

The album closes with the only real surprise track in Be True To Yourself, which is perhaps the one song that might not sound like FM! It is superb classic AOR, and has a maturity that should not surprise – but while it has all of the elements that we expect from the band, it has turned a few of them on their head, with a Supertramp electric piano riff setting the tone, and a Hold The Line type riff that sits beneath the melody. It would not surprise if this was the next single, and would attract a different audience in addition to the typical FM fans.

What I have found from the last few FM releases – and “Thirteen” – is a band that has absolutely settled on the core elements of their sound, and has continued to write new material that represents that sound. So if you have liked FM albums in the past, you will love lots of tracks on this one, and it really is an FM record in the truest sense – honest, melodic, and brilliantly delivered, with production in the hands of the band themselves.
Great to keep seeing FM at the top of their game, delivering another quality album, and reinforcing the view that the band were always more substantial than the critics used to give them credit for.
Highly Recommended


01 – Shaking The Tree
02 – Waiting On Love
03 – Talk Is Cheap
04 – Turn This Car Around
05 – Love And War
06 – Long Road Home
07 – Be Lucky
08 – Every Man Needs A Woman
09 – Just Got Started
10 – Fight Fire With Fire
11 – Be True To Yourself

Steve Overland – Vocals
Guitar Merv Goldsworthy – Bass
Pete Jupp – Drums
Jem Davis – Keyboards
Jim Kirkpatrick – Guitar



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