FM

Surveillance

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    4
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AllMusic Review by

Already by 1979 it had become clear FM would be unable to top its debut LP Black Noise. Despite excellent production for the time -- and technical help from synth wizard Larry Fast -- Surveillance sounds half-cooked, a couple of tracks lifting off, the others crawling miserably."Rocket Roll" embodies everything prog rock had become by the end of the 1970s: cold, pop, straightforward. It pushes the sci-fi theme found in the previous album's "Phasors on Stun" and later reprised in "Destruction." "Horizons" is an interesting ballad, and "Sofa Back," a childish romp, provides the best instrumental moments. The more ambitious songs tend to sound either pompous ("Seventh Heaven," "Random Harvest") or too single-minded ("Father Time"). There are two exceptions: the aforementioned "Destruction," a strong prog rock despite predictable lyrics, and a flavorless cover of the Yardbirds' "Shapes of Things." Ben Mink replaced the coming-and-going Nash the Slash on violin and mandolin, but the role played by these instruments have been severely reduced. While on Black Noise they conferred a distinctive sound to the group's music, here they remain in the background, often drowned by the synthesizers. With their best features toned down, FM recorded a pretty bland album.

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