FM Black Noise

Let’s go back to the days of Progressive Rock, when Emerson, Lake and Palmer wrote 30-minute epics about the battle between humans and computers, and Geddy Lee could wail about the blackhole Cygnus X-1 and make it go gold. And while no, science fiction hasn’t gone away in our music (Janelle Monae’s concept albums being a very recent example), it’s hard not think about the 70s as its golden age, from Glam Rock embracing the idea of the alien, to… well…. most everything in prog rock.

As such, for today’s Throwback Thursday, ScienceFiction.com’s column on the great science fiction of the past, we will be looking at FM’s ‘Black Noise.’

If you were hoping for some better known prog rock, I have to apologize. I have never been a big fan the genre, but FM’s ‘Black Noise’ has, and always will be, an exception. Maybe it’s because they have a song called ‘Slaughter in the Robot Village,’ or maybe because it’s a decent album even if it meanders a bit into instrumentals more than I think is strictly necessary. But then again, it’s prog rock. Of course there is five minutes of something that sounds like a space-age-sitar-disco.

There is no overarching narrative to ‘Black Noise’ as is typical in concept albums of the 70s (such as David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” being a tribute to ‘1984’). There is no android civil war to use as a metaphor for black empowerment (Janelle Monae), and it’s not a rock opera using psychosis as an allegory to demonstrate growing up after World War II (Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’). It’s overarching theme is just science fiction. Whether this is riffing off of Timothy Leary’s ideas of space flight (and drugs…never forget the drugs) or an homage to ‘Star Trek’, it all comes back to the future.

Which, if you think about it, is really indicative of prog rock. What is progress if it’s not going towards some sort of future?

But really, that’s really grasping for straws in the face of the final song on the album. ‘Black Noise,’ the album’s eponymous closing song, is a ten minutes narrative about a space war. It sounds like it should be played behind every battle in ‘Mass Effect.’ It feels like the theme song to ‘Space Invaders.’ It is the stuff ‘Gundam Wing‘ is made of. In short, even if the rest of the album was about puppies and daisies, this song is so filled with every element of science fiction that it would still make the album featured on our Throwback Thursday.

Don’t believe me? See for yourself:

All I’m saying is someone should get on the phone with Christopher Nolan and tell him that FM has a great idea for a movie, and the soundtrack is included.

I would love to say “I rest my case” here. But, it would probably be unfair to end this column without including their most popular song, “Set Phasors on Stun”:

There you have it.  If you are a fan of science fiction, no matter the form, this is most definitely the album for you. Go check it out.