Fischer-Z - Reveal
Subsequent to that, I followed Watts' developing career through the break-up of Fischer-Z, his first two solo albums, the formation and split of the Cry after one album and then the re-formation of Fischer-Z is a different guise. After that, I entered my musical hiatus and I lost track of pretty much everything music related until many years later.
Watts' decision-making process around this time may seem, to an outsider, to have been somewhat erratic. Deciding that he ought to be master of his own musical vision, Watts split up Fischer-Z after Red Skies over Paradise. He went solo and in this guise he produced two albums, neither of which resulted in much acclaim, though both of which saw Watts explore new musical avenues. He then turned back to a group setting with The Cry, but they folded after one album. So John Watts was back to Fischer-Z, perhaps to see if he could recapture some of the magic of 1981.
However, this was a completely new line up and a new style more akin to that on his last solo album, The Iceberg Model. There was a good deal of usage of a horn and string section, and also the adoption of a more regular input from female backing vocals. Sadly, it did not really work in the way in which he probably intended. For those who were looking for something which was a direct musical line from the previous incarnation of Fischer-Z, this album would come as a huge disappointment. For those who were looking for something from the more innovative side of Watts' creativity, likewise.
It would seem that this album represented the start of the low period in John Watts and Fischer-Z. He certainly seems to have lost his way somewhat. It would take a while before he regained it. This album may have been one of those which the artist had to make for his own benefit, but in my mind it is possibly the weakest of the whole Fischer-Z/John Watts catalogue. That condemnation should not be the subject of too much dismay, however, for a weak John Watts is still something worth listening to. It is just that, when expectations are high, the come down is all the harder when they are not fully met.
Having said that, the lyrics on many of the songs show that he could still turn a good word. He remains as insightful and as cutting as ever, and while the overtly political stance has faded, he can still write thoughtful and absorbing lyrics about everyday situations. But in the end the music was not up to par, and the messages his previous albums had carried was lost is the translation. "Realistic Man" is the high point of this otherwise disappointing album which, despite that, is still worthy of an honest listen.
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