1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 266

F.L.M., by Mel & Kim
Suggested by Stuart Emerson

First, a quiz.

Can you tell me the most-played Mel & Kim song on Spotify? No peeking now!

Got your answer? Good.

You’re wrong.

The most played Mel & Kim song on Spotify is… Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree, by Mel & Kim, a.k.a. Mel Smith and Kim Wilde. It seems there’s something a little squiffy with the naming system, which lumps these differing artistes in together.

I know, I know… I tricked you. It’s a true fact, but it leaves you feeling cheated, like when you learn that the actor who has grossed the most box office cash through his film appearances is Stan Lee, due to his many Marvel cameos.

As a metalhead formed in the mid-Eighties and early Nineties, the enemy had a name, and a sound. The enemy was a three headed beast, a corporate Cerberus barking out vapid album after vapid album from a stacked Lazy Susan of Pop. The enemy’s name? Say it loud, my metal brothers and sisters…

Stock.

Aitken.

Waterman.

The signature SAW sound was everywhere, for a subset of time. Their chart-topping acts included Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Rick Astley, Pepsi & Shirley, Big Fun, Samantha Fox, Sonya, Cliff Richard, La Toya Jackson, and (of course) Mel and Kim.

While these acts decimated the charts in the grand manufactured Simon Cowell style, what truly rankled with me was the music’s position in the social hierarchy. It was literally the Anti-Metal, the sound that your parents longed you’d absorb to break you out of the double-denim-and-backpatch-mullet trap. It was the “nice stuff” in the terrible sentence “why can’t you listen to nice stuff and not this awful racket?!” As a consequence, it’s never going to get anything but short shrift from me.

F.L.M is Mel and Kim’s single studio album, in a career tragically cut short by Mel’s death at age 23. It contains nine songs, three of which were bonafide top drawer SAW fare. The most famous is the iconic Respectable, which should take the crown as my standout song, but I’d actually rate it below both F.L.M and my actual favourite Showing Out (Get Fresh at the Weekend) with its party feel and exultant chorus. The rest of the album? Largely forgettable and formulaic, six highly honed and crafter pop numbers that are designed by committee and delivered with polish and sheen.

Aside from their album, Mel and Kim released three non-album singles, a remix album that also spawned a single, and three – three! – Best of Mel and Kim compilations. That’s a lot of highlights from such a tragically truncated career, but I guess I shouldn’t be churlish.

F.L.M. gets 4/10 from me, partly due to its corporate saccharine output, and partly through personal distaste for a sound that crystalised my sense of otherness at a wholly formative age.

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