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Monday, February 8, 2016

FM - City of Fear

Name: FM
Album: City of Fear
Year: 1980
Style: Space Rock, Prog
Similar Bands: City Boy, Rush, Yes, Styx, Journey
One Word Review: Watered Down Power Prog.
Based Out Of: Toronto, Canada
Label: Passport
 City of Fear - Cover & Back, Record
City of Fear - Gatefold, Record
City of Fear (1980)
  1. Krakow 4:37
  2. Power 3:28
  3. Truth or Consequences 4:13
  4. Lost and Found 4:25
  5. City of Fear 5:07 /
  6. Surface to Air 5:18
  7. Up to You 4:21
  8. Silence 3:22
  9. Riding the Thunder 4:06
  10. Nobody at All 4:09
Album Rating (1-10): 6.5

Members & Other Bands:
Larry Fast - Producer (David Pritchard, Synergy, Peter Gabriel, Fire Inc, Tony Levin Band)
Ben Mink - Violin, Mandolin, Vox (Murray McLaughlin, KD Lang, Heart, Raffi, American Flyer discogs page)
Cameron Hawkins - Lead Vox, Synth, Bass, Piano (David Pritchard, Ken Ramm, Nash the Slash, Kick Axe, Marty Simon, Ed Bernard)
Martin Deller - Drums, Electric and Acoustic Percussion (David Pritchard, Ben Mink, The Travellers, Ken Ramm, M+M, Nash the Slash)
Murray Brenman - Artwork, Design
Charles Conrad - Engineer
Jim Frank - Engineer, Pre-Production
Mark Wright - Engineer, Recording, Pre-Production
Cliff Hodsdon - Asst Engineer
Scott Rea - Asst Engineer
Bob Ludwig - Mastering
Ian Murray - Pre-Production Asst, Crew
Eric Staller - Photo Cover
Paul Till - Inner Photo
Bob Rock - Stand Ups Photo
Pamela Silverstein - Spoken Word
Rob Onedera - Synthy Maintenance
Ed Stone - Pre-Production
Ian Dunbar - Pre-Production, Crew
Kitty Cross - Crew
Fred Bunting - Crew
Bob Rodgers - Crew
Andy Murray - Crew
Phil Morrow - Crew
Peter McMullen - Crew

Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of FM. But they look like any long haired hard rock band from the late 70’s early 80’s, like City Boy, or Heaven. I don’t expect it to be anything out of the ordinary, perhaps metal lite with prog rock tendencies.

Album Review:  FM was a space or Sci-Fi Prog Rock band based in Canada. Starting in 1976, they had a revolving door of band members and set ups, starting off as a two-piece lacking any guitars. The front man (Hawkins) sang, played keys and some bass, while Nash was in the back, a mysterious shrouded figure playing electrified string instruments, a drum machine and occasional backing vocals. Four albums followed the departure of Nash as well as the addition of a live drummer. This album is the final of those four, acclaimed as catchier than being prog-heavy, and featuring shorter song lengths: both are seen as pros or cons depending on who you talk to.
“Krakow” begins with a simple driving bass line, reminding me a little of the intro/verse of Steppenwolf’s Born to Be Wild. The vocals begin solo, with a chorus echoing in tow. They are similar to that of a hundred other new wave bands, kind of nasally, and computer-cold. After a brief fake-out soundless section, the instruments come back. The song is of simple construction, verse and instrumental in trading off sections.
“Power” explodes with Prog synth notes, and transitions into power pop guitar chords, which sets the tone for a marching tempo. It builds nicely leading up to the chorus, which is a bit of a chaotic reshuffling and sped up drumming. The sections come together nicely for the grand finale.
“Truth or Consequences” starts with a pounding bass line, and soaring strings. The song then shifts gears into a mid tempo pub rock song, with parallel synth & bass lines in the chorus. It has a nice energy build and release in the chorus, even if it is not incredibly catchy.
“Lost and Found” begins with a trash can drum beat. Very synth effects and mid-later period Oingo Boingo-style (thinking Two Twisted Trees) vocals are sung over the snickering synth. The song is strained, pining and kind of dark wave / cold war / industrial once the synth strings and heavy drums kick in.
“City of Fear” on the other hand is much more upbeat and happy tones, with a prog like opening that blends with heavy guitars. Very Rush-like. The verse is very modern, and catchy, and the bridge / verse 2.0,  before the drab chorus, is heightened an octave higher even more catchy. The instrumental breakdown is all lead guitar (even though there is no guitar).

“Surface to Air” is a simple, repetitive keyboard loop, with similar tone to Journey’s Separate Ways intro. The synth line establishes itself and soars along. Calm, non-threatening vocals start, and begin the mid-tempo verse, punctuated by prog flourishes. The chorus is energetic, and catchy. The instrumental breakdown is a duel between the prog power strings and synth melody soaring across the soundscape like a video game.
“Up to You” single chords strung together in with a sinister string effect. This song reminds me of Thomas Dolby a little. It builds nicely in the bridge between verse into the chorus, but does not quite deliver a single catchy release. The second time through ends up at the instrumental, which is powered by the soaring strings solo. That gives out, and the remaining Phil Collins drum loops brings us back. The song is just missing one big thing to make it a great song.
“Silence” begins as another cold, echoing, rhythm based song. It moves forward staggering and segmented. The song is pretty forgettable, with no memorable hook. It feels like it just fills a space, where the melody is tough to pin down, and the vocals are not loud either. I guess Silence is a good title for this mellow, meandering song.
“Riding the Thunder” for a couple of chords, it sounds like it is going to be the Black Crows Hard to Handle. But the power chords never converge into a super catchy, rattling hook. They just hover there, and repeat themselves, bearing the brunt of the tempo. There is a lot of angry energy in the vocals, but they seem diffused by the minimal instrumentation. The instrumental section kicks into overdrive, and the song blasts forward. Just when it seems to return to the slowed up section, it powers on with more synth and distortion effects over the strings, and even the vocals later on in the “instrumental.”
“Nobody at All” begins with spoken work, and a delicate piano. The vocals take the song back to a more elegant era, revitalized through the hair band power ballad. This school dance ender doesn’t fit in too much with the rest of the album, unless you go with the stereotypical record of the day that needed to include a slow song. There are some proggy-crystal elements to the synth at times, but it is mostly a piano ballad with a semi-hard edge at times. 

Stand Out Track: Surface to Air

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1 comment:

  1. I found out about these guys by accident-one of their CD's was in a bin with the melodic/AOR UK band of the same name-while I am a huge prog fan, it is easy to see why there are a lot of prog bands that do not hit it bigger-musically excellent, but needs more hooks (just like you mention).