Sunday, May 26, 2024

Quickies - Gun, and FM

You could call this a Rock of Ages reunion of Quickies reviews, since both Gun and FM go back more than a few years, to my hard rock following twenties.  Yet here they are again, many moons later, both serving up new albums for consideration.
Gun – Hombres
When Gun burst onto the scene in 1989 with their debut album Taking On The World, then followed up with Gallus, they sounded fresh and convincing, and had a clear identity of their own. Success didn’t last back then of course, but they’ve been back for a while now, and with Hombres they show that they’re still capable of sounding fresh.
Opening track ‘All Fired Up’ is typical hard charging Gun riffing, with thumping drums from Paul McManus and some twirling guitar garnish on the side. It may not be wildly original, but it’s
Gun - All fired up and stuck in a lift
delivered with conviction, and sonically has a modern sheen to it. And that’s pretty much the template for what follows.
‘Boys Don’t Cry’ may have a grinding rhythm and jagged riff, but those elements are complemented by a melodic chorus with a pleasing hook, and some airy harmonies.  Then ‘Take Me Back Home’ leaps into headbanging hard rock territory, but adds a coat of gloss and a Lizzy-like guitar interlude – plus a weird effect that sounds like the roar of a velociraptor.
So it continues with the mid-paced stomp of ‘Fake Life’, spritzed up with a bucket of melodic rock leanings.  ‘You Are What I Need’ brings and air of romance, with its swaying backing and higher-pitched vocal from Dante Gizzi, leading to a singalong chorus.  And ‘Never Enough’ may have a stuttering riff and rasping vocal, but again the end result is gleaming and catchy rather than roughcast, with a screaming guitar solo downshifting into a melodic bridge.
There’s also a sense on the closing pair of tracks, ‘Lucky Guy’ and ‘Shift In Time’, that the Gunners are allowing some space for broader influences to get in the game.  ‘Lucky Guy’ throbs into life with guttural bass from Andy Carr and a simple kick drum beat, blended with a drawling vocal and shimmering backing vocals, then it explodes into life and jabs away like a boxer as it reaches for a chorus reminiscent of Bryan Ferry’s take on ‘The Price Of Love’, topped off with a siren-like guitar solo. Then ‘Shift In Time’ deploys acoustic guitar to back a melody with a Fab Four ‘A Day In The Life’ vibe. It expands into anthemic mode, spiced up with what some synth-like twiddling, on the way to a swaying, singalong chorus enhanced by soaring female backing vocals, and a piercing guitar solo of a Brian May tonal quality.
Gun are just as direct as in their original incarnation, but seem to have developed an extra layer of subtlety, finding a few extra ingredients in the back of the cupboard to liven things up. It’s good to have them back, and in fine fettle.
Hombres is out now on Cooking Vinyl.
FM – Old Habits Die Hard
Weirdly, I have no recollection of FM’s early days, even though their launch in 1984 was right in the middle of my Sounds-reading, hard-rock-listening early twenties. None. I have no explanation for this.
Listening to tracks such as ‘Don’t Need Another Heartache’ this seems like a shame. Pitched somewhere between Foreigner and Bad Company, it comes with bubbling keys, gutsy chords,
FM - Steve Overland fails to read 'shades' memo
Pic by Paul Stuart Hollingsworth
guitar harmonies, and a general air of blues rock grit. ‘No Easy Way Out’ also impresses, with more echoes of Foreigner in the intro, a good hook and soaring harmonies.
The quasi-epic ‘Black Water’ adds some drama to the mix, a slowish tune with an atmospheric undercurrent of dappled keys from Jem Davis, melodic bass and shimmering guitar, leading to a chorus with a bit of punch, and a squealing guitar solo from the hands of Jim Kirkpatrick. And later on ‘Leap Of Faith’ has satisfying heft in the form of its somersaulting, tumbling riff, making it rock as well as roll.
Then again, opening track ‘Out Of The Blues’ is a song where the whole is, for my tastes, a bit less than the sum of its parts. Sure, there’s an interesting African-type rhythm thing going on over the steady beat, Merv Goldsworthy’s bass rumbles away pleasingly, and there are some neat, tasteful guitar licks and soloing. Too neat really – the overall result is very AOR, á la Toto, or late period Doobie Brothers, and that’s too smooth for me. ‘Whatever It Takes’ is similarly a bit too slick and shiny.  Meanwhile ‘Cut Me Loose’ may sound like it’s been cut from Mike & The Mechanics cloth, but curiously enough it works rather better.
‘California’ is bright and engaging, as sunny and driving-with-the-top-down as its title suggests, and with a couple of zinging guitar solos to boot.  ‘Another Day In My World’ is edgier, and with its rhythmic quirks and driving guitar, plus Davis’ squirreling keys, it too hits the target.  Then to close there’s ‘Blue Sky Mind’, on which a strong melody is given the right kind of glossy but propulsive treatment, the guitar work elegantly ear-catching.
FM have obviously got the musical and songwriting chops. To really be my cup of char though, they could do with a bit more spit and a bit less polish.
Old Habits Die Hard is out now on Frontiers Records, and can be ordered here.

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