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Mel & Kim – F.L.M. (Cherry Pop)

On the surface of this story is the incredibly sad fact, one half of the duo Mel & Kim, Mel Appleby died suddenly in January of 1990 as a result of pneumonia, following treatment for metastatic paraganglioma cancer. This was just three years and three months after the release of their debut single ‘Showing Out (Get Fresh at the Weekend)’. Their music career would see them receive a Silver BPI award for this debut single, a Gold award for their follow-up ‘Respectable’, and a Platinum award for the album, F.L.M. Following Mel’s diagnosis, Kim Appleby was to take time out of her career to nurse her sister for two and a half years. This meant that F.L.M. was to be the duo’s only album. Although achieving solid sales at the time, this coloured-vinyl version might find a collectors market beyond that of those yearning for yesterday and buying copies for their children. Although it has to be said, that yesterday was over 30 years ago, it’s time for the children to make you grandparents and possibly for those grandchildren to make you great-grandparents. But that’s nothing to do with me.

This relatively brief album comprises only nine songs, clocking in at just over 30 minutes. Filled with candied pop, as the album’s lead track ‘F.L.M.’ makes the listener’s ears, the memory of what made the Stock, Aitkin and Waterman music machine such a success will come flooding back. Although this wasn’t to last forever, but that’s another story. This number utilises the S.A.W. brand of sequenced beats, heavy on bass and in this case complete with sugary vocals, which hear the duo sing words that could’ve been torn from the pages of; The Rise and Rise of Economic Values in 1980s Britain. A fictitious account it should be said, but take a look at these lyrics and you might be forgiven for thinking it was a real account; “If you’re in confusion/Here’s the solution: Fun, Love and Money/You can’t get the answers, if you don’t take chances/Fun, Love and Money. F.L.M.”. And it’s at this point that the proverbial penny drops, as I realise just what F.L.M. stands for. ‘Showing Out (Get Fresh At The Weekend)’ is the number that follows and it’s this debut single that follows the theme of fast cash and having fun. This time the girls head out, like twenty-somethings, in search of a good time. Both drink, drugs, and sex are suggested here. The production team behind these numbers, certainly knew how to make tunes, just as the lines they might end up taking during the evening. That brings us neatly to the following number, ‘Respectable’ with the Appleby’s singing for a nation of teens, “We are never gonna be respectable/Like us, hate us/But you’ll never change us/We are never gonna be respectable.” In the ’70s Johnny Rotten did for the teenager, just what these girls are now suggesting in the ’80s. Respectability this time has a shine, that its predecessor lacked.

These first three numbers played to the theme of “knock-’em-out-sell-’em-fast pop”, a recipe that was a formula that worked. In the following number, ‘Feel A Whole Lot Better’ the duo turned from house-influenced production to a number vocally possessing downtempo, soulful tones, although with the same formula that the hit machine had previously brought to their music. A routine of sequenced chords, pounding beats and light touch synthesiser. Although rather than evenings out, spending wads of cash, a la Harry Enfield’s ‘Loadsamoney’, in this song it’s the heartbreak that’s troubling the girls. As they come to the conclusion that “If you dance you’ll feel a whole lot better,” That’s one way of looking at life I suppose. Having listened to this number, this is the number before we all head home, but that’s for the DJ to assemble their playlist, far be it for me to suggest.

I’d not thought of it before now, but the highs definitely start this album, with the songwriters, or perhaps the producers choosing to tone down their inclusions as the album progresses. Lovelorn numbers fill the content, until ‘From A Whisper To A Scream’, admittedly another teary tome, but as some might recognise, is the title of a song Elvis Costello wrote in 1981. Other’s preferences might be different, but I have to say mine are for Costello’s every time. This is no doubt a Stock, Aitkin and Waterman original, but with that nagging doubt that it might be someone else’s original. It’s not. The album closes with ‘Who’s Gonna Catch You When You Fall’, a very fitting example of the music machine, its sequenced beats very much in place. Here the label has worked with Kim, to continue honouring the Mel and Kim legacy, just as the label’s Singles Boxset started in 2019. This album was not quite as I remember it, although with its Ochre Vinyl Edition, is certainly not the comfortable black vinyl I recall over 30 years ago. Older, yet somewhat wiser.

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.