The “Building Bridges” title of UK band Fischer-Z’s latest album implies there is an alternative approach in this new Trumptopian era. With a trigger-happy, narcissistic, confrontational reality star installed as the most powerful man in the world and the politically disenfranchised voting for simplistic reactionary personalities the world over, there has to be an equal and opposite active force for altruism, compassion, communication and concern for all humanity. This is not an uncommon view, but it’s incredibly important that those who believe in building bridges between all nations, over religious divides, between political ideologies left and right, between rich and poor must not become complacent but unite and turn the forces of reason into active resistance to this tide of selfishness, ignorance and instability. Unfortunately, the hippie generation have given the cause of love and peace rather a bad name. The left has become devoid of spunk and unity. The album reveals that Fischer-Z mastermind and songwriter John Watts is still as fascinated by the current political issues and has retained his ability to see the world from a black humour perspective.
“Damascus Disco”, which is the album opener as well as the first single release, is political punk funk that sets the tone for the whole album: “Unlucky people lose their heads / Little children bombed out of beds”. In the sing-along chorus, Watts concludes: “If we build bridges with love / Hey hey … It might be enough”. Further into the song, he says: “Bring San Francisco to Damascus Disco”. Love and peace must have teeth! These clear simple messages, compact songs, chunky riffs and memorable melodies will stick in your head. Be it in “Easy Money” with its massive guitars, in which he tosses barbs at banks and brokers, or in the folksy “Row Boys Row” (“They are left no options but fight or flight”), which depicts his view of the Calais refugees’ daily struggle. And when it says in the ‘punky Beachboys’ style of “Let’s Put The Pressure On” that “The ‘have not’ lobby needs a louder voice”, it’s clear he’s still championing mobilisation of people power to secure a fairer world. Of course, he does not exclude songs that give a factional insight into his personal feelings, as for example in “Barbera Sunlight’, the thundering “Umberella” or Iggylike “Wild Wild Wild Wild”. He also describes a doomed contemporary wartime romance in “So Close”.
2017 is a remarkable year in the history of Fischer-Z. “Building Bridges” the 20thstudio album will be available on March 31st. Its nineteen predecessors were released under a number of other names as well as Fischer-Z. There were solo albums by John Watts, albums as The Cry and Watts and J.M.Watts. “Red Skies Over Paradise” from 1981 was one of the definite new wave classic albums and included the mega hits “Marliese” or “Berlin”, which are still popular today.
This year BMG Rights and Fischer-Z manager Eric Watts are drawing together the whole catalogue into a continuous and comprehensive history. The story of Fischer-Z is synonymous with John Watts’ story. In many ways John Watts is to Fischer-Z what Mark E Smith is to the Fall, except he’s been a more reluctant to be the brand and by all accounts is a more benign dictator! Watts’ heroes from Picasso and Warhol to Dali and Bowie were all evolving artists and not rock stars per se. Everything Fischer-Z has always been imbued with a dark, irreverent, sense of humour which due to a lack of U.K. profile is only recently being recognised. His 39-year career with Fischer-Z includes 19 albums and 3000 concerts worldwide with success spanning continental Europe and album sales in excess of two million. Peter Gabriel, Steve Cropper and Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Brass Section have all contributed to recordings. Fischer-Z have performed to crowds of 167,000 alongside James Brown in East Berlin, toured with both The Police and Dire Straits, appeared with Bob Marley on his final European festival tour and have toured in both the USA and Canada. In recent years Watts has developed a reputation as a multimedia artist, poet and playwright, amassing an impressive and eclectic range of creative work characterized by verve, warmth and humanity.
So this year Fischer-Z will celebrate their 40th anniversary with various launch gigs in Europe around the release date of “Building Bridges”, concerts in the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany in April and May, followed by festival appearances and a bigger tour in the autumn as well as re-issues from their extensive catalogue. The new album was recorded at Leeders Vale Studios in Wales in the spring and summer of 2016 and co-produced by Nick Brine. John Watts actually played almost all of the instruments himself, with the exception of Jamie Bush who assisted him on drums. The final mastering of the eleven tracks was done by Pete Maher (Rolling Stones, U2, Jack White, among others)