FM - Old Habits Die Hard

FM – Old Habits Die Hard

Forty years on from when Steve Overland and his original posse, FM, rode out from London into the wild west of the music industry, they are still entertaining in saloons around the world. Over many years in the saddle they have released fourteen studio albums, numerous live/compilation albums/DVD’s and EP’s, plus a VHS for the old timers who remember them.

They ride into town kicking up dust, with the sun at their backs and a cornflour sky flecked with little white clouds, whilst many other bands from the era drift away and scatter across the scorched earth like old tumbleweed. Losing a few compadres across the great divides and trails, they still feature three original members, a credible feat for a band with such esteemed history, to deliver their latest, Old Habits Die Hard.

Hauling the album tracks up outside the bar, they dismount. Stretching out any aches from the long ride and dusting themselves down, they secure the reins, climb the wooden steps to swing open the saloon doors and swagger in Out Of The Blue, as the dried mud kicks from their boots. The years have built a tightness in performance with every band member a sure-shot, a built understanding branded over years of playing together.

Steve Overland’s rich vocals riding above the music may be an octave lower these days, but have not lost any power as he reminds us they Don’t Need Another Heartache and they stand by the bar surveying the dust motes occupying the riddled interior. Swirling in time to the musical lights, that beam through every nook and cranny and wakens the grizzled old prospector, propped at the end of the bar on a stool. His wizened, ageing dog laid by his side cocks an ear and raises his nose

There’s No Easy Way Out, and the band have no intention of leaving us, without reminding fully why they rode into town. Every song encourages you to sing along as Jem tinkles the keys of the upright by the stage while Merv and Jim swing the guitars that had been propped against the wall, Pete beats a rhythm on the beer-stained bar and Steve takes the mic hanging from the cobwebbed rafters.

Cards become discarded on tables, conversations dry up as bottles of liquor are enthusiastically raised, contents leaping out and splashing on the floorboards underfoot as they are thrust in the air. Eyes are swivelled to the stage as the songs aren’t Lost on the engaged throng. Denim legs prop back the old wooden stools and chairs, swaying in chaps, as stirrups tinkle to the tune.

There is enough promise in the faithful lyrics of this next song to ensure a warmth in the air and there will be no fighting tonight, Whatever It Takes. Bullet-hole punched Stetsons and sombreros are clutched to sweat stained, sun-baked chests in another singalong, brothers and sisters in harmony. The barkeep smiles and twists his pomade waxed moustache in satisfaction, his shotgun under the bar, not needed to settle any disputes this evening.

Cicadas play a tune in consternation as a roll of distant thunder ripples through the saloon, whilst on a more reflective note Steve sings of returning to Black Water. Jim pulls a low-slung guitar solo free from his holster firing notes across the crowd and new arrivals entering the bar, swelling the ranks as they shelter from the oncoming rain. You can take the cowboy from his homestead but you can’t take the comforting lure of returning home from the man. Sometimes the early blossom of young love jades with time and you just have to Cut Me Loose, and allow a cowboy to drift down that trail, on this impassioned ballad of a faded romance. Rocking out or entreating, Steve Overland’s voice never fails to hit the spot.

If there’s still a chance to recapture the rapture and tighten that lasso around your man, pulling him back to you, it will need a Leap Of Faith. Take sage advice from the lyrics as the upbeat rhythm with a customary singalong chorus carries you along.

Clearing a space in front of the stage, tables are slid to one side, the crowd dance as the band yearn for California, and entice the throng with all its attractions. Watch the sun go down on the beach in the land of make believe, whilst you kick off your boots, swapping jeans for beachwear and chill. Will these boys be taking to the saddle again in search of a better life on this wistful song? Maybe but right now the band and audience are having a ball.

With an introduction that reminds me of Matchbox Twenty, the band take a more serious line, looking to turn around their fortunes as they contemplate time slipping away on penultimate track, Another Day In My World whilst they look to move on.

Having decided, they will wrap up this party in true, bouncy FM style, heading out in search of new adventures envisioned in their Blue Sky Mind. They leave fans old and new smiling, with a warm feeling of contentment brought from good music, riding off into the sunset. Hopefully they will return soon for another good ol’ party.

So why not mosey down and have a listen. There is nothing groundbreaking or overly clever about these boys, but they bring solid, hook-laden tunes with a recognisable sound and saddlebags full of anthemic choruses. The music is as tight as you would expect and they seem to bounce off each other telepathically, their enjoyment oozing infectiously through the grooves.

If they are a little saddle sore after forty years, it doesn’t show and after numerous listens and seeing them ‘live’ recently, they could still ride into any rodeo with their heads held high. In my opinion one of the most underrated British rock bands this country has seen in the last four decades, with one of the best vocalists.

Y’all take care now.

01. Out Of The Blue (4:21)
02. Don’t Need Another Heartache (4:35)
03. No Easy Way Out (3:54)
04. Lost (5:20)
05. Whatever It Takes (4:37)
06. Black Water (4:52)
07. Cut Me Loose (4:34)
08. Leap Of Faith (4:05)
09. California (5:17)
10. Another Day In My World (4:14)
11. Blue Sky Mind (5:06)

Total Time – 50:55

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

Record Label: Frontiers Music
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 3rd May 2024

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