• FM359 - Truth, Love And Liberty

    Released by: Pirate’s Press Records
    Released on: January 14th, 2014.
    Purchase From Amazon

    Made up of Street Dogs/ex-Dropkick Murphy’s vocalist Mike McColgan, Street Dogs guitar player Johnny Rioux on bass, ex-Dropkick Murphys/Continental member Rick Barton on guitar, Pete Sosa on drums, Murder The Stout’s Hugh Morrison on accordion and Halston Luna also on guitar with help from David Schaeder on tin whistle, FM359 have obviously got some pretty strong ties to Boston’s street punk scene. Their debut album, following the release of a 45 a few months ago (both through Pirate’s Press Records) was recorded in Austin, TX (home for Rioux and Morrison) and somehow manages to be completely different than what they’ve done before without straying so far away as to completely alienate the fan base that would be built into something with this sort of punk rock pedigree.

    This is, for all intents and purposes, a folk record. Or a country record. Or a gospel record. Or a collection of Celtic/traditional Irish music played with a little bit of twang. Really, it’s all of those mixed into one, but what it’s not is a rowdy, loud Street Dogs/Dropkicks style release. With that said, it’s not hard to see what connects those bands to this project (recorded during that break The Street Dogs took for a while a year or so ago). Working class anthems, songs of the common man’s struggle, intelligent left leaning politics and musical roots that would seem to be equal parts Irish folk and Americana in its truest form make that much obvious. Given that The Street Dogs have done acoustic Pogues covers at various life performances here and there and done covers of Billy Bragg and Kris Kristofferson songs in the past, this isn’t so much of a stretch. Then when you take into account Morrison’s band, Murder The Stout, and their fantastic Pogues inspired sound, yeah, this makes sense. These guys have got the right sort of resume to make an album like this, and yet it’s somehow surprising that not only did they get off their collective asses and do it but that it turned out as well as it did. Something like this could have easily gone horribly wrong, it could have turned into a sappy, contrived collection of limp and insepid songs you couldn’t care less about, that sort of phoned in, going through the motions junk that seems to be the end result of a lot of side projects.

    Thankfully Truth, Love And Liberty is none of that. It reeks of sincerity in the best way possible, it’s not overproduced but it’s slick enough in the production department that it sounds good while still retaining an unpolished, authentic feel. It won’t be an album for all tastes but for those who appreciate this type of thing, it’s an insanely impressive debut.

    The complete track listing for Truth, Love And Liberty is:

    Some Folks / I’ll Be On My Way / A Little Sign / Forbidden Love / When The People Check Out / I Saw The Light / Bring It On / Restless Man / It Stays With Me / Sons Of Liberty #1

    We’re gonna go track by track on this one, so you’ll excuse the length of this review (or not, it’s your call, but damn it, I’ve got things to say)….

    The lead track, which was released previously as a 7 inch with A Little Sign as the B-side, is an upbeat track, a positive song about being thankful for what you have and not caring too much about what other people think. It’s a mid-tempo song with a nice little bit of electric guitar picking behind the acoustic and a really catchy chorus (try not to sing along when McColgan sings ‘no man is a batter man than you!’). This gets the album started off right before the band goes into a few different territories.

    I’ll Be On My Way shows the band’s collective love of The Pogues, as the vocals start off with the simple strumming of an acoustic guitar backing it until the 0:38 mark when the drums, bass and tin whistle kick in and the accordion comes up in the mix. It’s the type of track that would do McGowan and Stacy proud without completely ripping them off. It’s a song about leaving, about wandering up a ‘new road’ to find what there is to find and it is, for lack of a cheesier term, a fantastic road song, the kind you want to come on your car stereo before you go on an awesome road trip or something. At the same time, the playing here is incredibly tight, these guys obviously put a lot of practice into getting their sound right and nowhere is that more obvious on this album than this track.

    That B-side mentioned earlier, A Little Sign, slows things down as McColgan sings about the inevitability of the future and of growing older. It’s a little more somber than the song that came before it but at the same time, when he asks ‘c’mon and give me a little sign’ and then gives props to the women who have taught him so much over the years, how he’s cried for all of his sweet hearts, if you don’t feel something you’re probably dead inside. It’s a touching song that never goes into camp territory but fights right in with the country/Celt/roots/Americana thing that FM359 have completely nailed with this debut album. The vocals get more emotional and determined in the last forty seconds or so, letting the power inherent in McColgan’s voice really shine.

    Forbidden Love speeds things up again, but just a bit. There’s some effects on the vocals here to give them some distortion and electric guitars are heavier in the mix than acoustics, not the norm on this disc, but it works. It’s a little fuzzy sounding in spots, what sounds like some keyboards of piano in the background adding almost a honky-tonk sound to the track, coming close to traditional Stones inspired ‘classic rock’ towards the end, letting a bit of a blues influence come in. It doesn’t quite here as well as the other songs too but it’s an interesting experiment.

    One of the true highlights of the album is When The People Check Out, a track that lets the bands pro-union political streak shine as the lyrics call back to the time when ‘Give’em Hell Harry was here,’ a time when America was a stronger country, a more fair country than the one we know today. It’s a track about the importance of paying attention to what our elected officials and the big businesses that they’ve pledged allegiance to are up to. It’s also pretty anthemic, another uplifting track that draws attention to a lot of the problems affecting the country today. It’s the kind of song you want to sing along to and raise a glass to.

    I Saw The Light is not a Hank Williams cover but it’s definitely a country song with an obvious gospel influence. Don’t mind the F-bomb. McColgan’s not on constant lead vocals here, though he’s present. The lyrics are traded off among the other band members; it helps to differentiate it a bit from the other tracks. The chorus gets you a little riled up, the gang vocals on that chorus getting a little bit rowdy at times, which is nice to hear.

    Well past the half way mark at this point, Bring It On is another mid-tempo song that builds in interesting ways. Just as you think the chorus is about to let McColgan belt it out it pulls back, goes quiet and moves into another verse. It’s a solid track, once again with some positive and heartfelt lyrics. Once we get to the middle section, yeah, that’s the guy from The Street Dogs on vocals, there’s no mistaking that, but he’s back by acoustics here. This could have been an unreleased track from the last Street Dogs album session, it would have fit right in there, but it compliments everything else on this disc really nicely.

    The sweetest song on the album, at least in a romantic sense, is Restless Man, a track about what it’s like to try and understand life as you move through it, looking for your place, trying to find what you enjoy and trying to find ‘truth, love and liberty.’ It’s a love song in a very true sense, as the chorus questions ‘are you the one I’m waiting for to come and save me, to take my hand and walk around be plain lazy, will you be the one to save a restless man.’ Any guy out there who has spent a large portion of his life as a fuck up only to find the right woman and in turn a new lease on life, and let’s face it there’s plenty of us out there, out to appreciate what this one is all about. It’s almost a radio friendly pop song in a way, even if it’s not traditional by modern ‘mainstream’ music standards it might have been a few decades ago.

    Moving right along is a somber track called It Stays With Me, what sounds like a violin backs up an acoustic guitar as McColgan sings about the negative side of a traditional Catholic upbringing, how the establishment squashed free through in place of falling into line at the behest of the institutions insistence on conformity. It’s a slow, pensive song that makes some pretty valid points about what some people are willing to put their children through based on what their religion tells them to do rather than what’s best for them. It’s not a blasphemous song, it doesn’t need to be, but it makes a statement about what FM359 obviously and understandably see as an injustice of sorts. Free thought is important, it should be fostered not smothered and this track makes no qualms about hiding the fact that this type of upbringing can and does leave scars.

    The last track, Sons Of Liberty #1, pays tribute to the band’s Massachusetts roots and to America’s revolutionary past simultaneously. Again there’s an obvious Pogues influence here, lots of tin whistle in the background as the lyrics go on about certain characters who had the wherewithal to stand up for what they felt was right regardless of cost. It’s a fitting end to an album that casts aside preconceived notions of the band members’ past collective output and instead sets out to do something different.

    Check out some tracks in the video links below!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Nolando's Avatar
      Nolando -
      Couldn't agree more! The wife even loves this one so it's getting good play at der Bell Haus, too.