Word Salad (1979) **1/2
Fischer-Z were an intelligent and creative band with a paucity of truly memorable material for their debut. It's the type of album that's enjoyable enough when it's on, but after the record leaves the groove (or tape unwinds its last spool, or laser leaves the aluminum, or Windows closes the Media Player), there's precious little that leaves a strong impression. Only the ghostly pseudo-reggae slice-of-Ray-Davies-cum-Kraftwerk, "The Worker," stands out as cut-out-for-compilation track. The rest of the tunes are mostly pleasantly upbeat, neurotically-tinged New Wave, full of clever lyrics, quirky arrangements, and chipper little melodics. The four-piece band sound like a traditional rock power trio with a keyboardist layed out on top for that New Wave touch: in other words, basically like a U.K. version of the Cars. Except that Ric Ocasek and Ben Orr were far, far more pleasant singers: frontman John Watts comes across as a castrated Pete Townshend. It's understandable how his mousey tenor would turn many a listener off, but get past that and you get - what, exactly? A few clever Elvis Costello puns like, "The French Let Her," (french letter being British slang for condom, you see)? Some charging demi-punk ravers like, "Lies," and "Spiders," alongside pretty little New Wave pop tunes such as "Pretty Paracetemol," and "Billy and the Motorway Police"? It would be a mistake to classify this as generic New Wave, as the music is as far from generic as it gets this side of XTC, and with a frontman like Watts, you can't say the band definitely doesn't have a good dose of unique personality. It is, however, one of those albums that is dated and does not transcend its genre and era.
P.S. Why does this Englishman pronounce aluminum the American (i.e., the correct - we invented the process of making it, we get to bloody well say how it's spelled and pronounced) instead of the British way?