The David Rees-produced Writz LP seemed to get everything right from the opening track Night Nurse to the album closer Muscle Culture. With the benefit of hindsight, it sounds as if Writz were venturing into the territory about to be claimed by Talking Heads. Versatile musicianship that never veers into virtuoso territory, catchy choruses, an infectious dance-beat and a fine line in cynical humour underpinning the oblique lyrics.
Night Nurse could still be bottled and sold as the archetypal Writz track. A funky bassline, solid brass stabs, a glorious lead vocal from Rowles up against Fairnie and Sage’s counter-melodies, and some fine, creative guitar playing from the ever-reliable Jules Hardwick. Not to mention a key change to die for. It’s fun and it grooves along quite nicely thank you. And the single must have sold, oh, well, a few dozen copies. The mysteries of the pop world, eh?
After track 2 Luxury (a distant cousin of Blur’s Girls & Boys), vocal duties were democratically shared out throughout the remainder of side one, Fairnie most notably shining on Swinging With The Reptiles and its sarcastic digs at the bit players in the London fashion scene, and Bev Sage on pop-by-numbers track Movies. An energetic version of Fish Co live favourite Super Heroes, previously aired on Beneath the Laughter, gave the band a chance to rock out.
Side two kicks off with the imaginatively-titled Robberoni, featuring another powerful lead from Rowles, a killer chorus, and the most inventive backing vocal arrangement to grace a recording by the band. Their obsession with fame and the tabloids re-emerged in Private Lives: “Born of the photo lens, raised by the press, fed by the media, suckled and carressed, shot by the camera, scratched by the pen”. TV Times again makes the most of the band’s three vocalists. But don’t touch that dial…
… The final cut still stands as Fairnie’s ultimate tour de force. Muscle Culture’s sinister portrayal of a 21st century neo-Nazi regime is disturbing, shocking and extremely moving, from the mock-operatic opening bars to the closing claim that “we must improve ourselves together”. It would remain a staple of Casualtease happenings throughout the 80s. Above all it features the most remarkable of Fairnie’s half preacher – half dictator vocal performances: a megaphone-amplified flurry of brainwashing sentiments. Musically, it was far-removed from the pure pop of the other tracks on the album, with its insistent, monotonous bass-line, synthesised drums and minimalist keyboards. An astonishing piece of work.
The Writz album could still hold its own in a battle for shelf space with early albums by The Police, XTC or Blondie. It captures the sound of the London scene in the late 70s. The Police, XTC and Blondie made it. Writz weren’t quite as lucky, but the album still brings back a lot of good memories to a lot of people.
Steve Rowles – Vocals & Guitar
Steve Fairnie – Vocals
Bev Sage – Vocals
Jules Hardwick – Guitar & Guitar Synthsizer
Nick Battle – Bass Guitar
Arry Axell – Drums
All songs written by Fairnie & Rowles
Arranged by Writz
Produced by David Rees
Recorded at Trident Studios, London
Engineered by John Brand
Mixed at Trident Studios, London by John Burns & David Rees, except Night Nurse & Drive Away which were mixed at DJM Studios, London by Keith Bessey & David Rees
P. 1979 Noeland Productions
Art & design – Dobney Johnson Studios
Photography – Paddy Eckersley
Inner sleeve – Garry Mouat
Art direction – Fairnie & Sage
Thanks to Road Crew, “Squad” Watts, Pete Williams, John Roden, Simon Hilliard.
Robbi Millar liner notes: “Heading into the 80s at twice the speed of sound and vision. This is WRITZ. A new-wave influenced showband, treading the difficult pathway between Roxy Music and The Damned. Caught in a slick fantastic world of glamour and dirt. From the smooth sophistication of cocktails and Studio 54, to the comfortable sleaziness of a bar in gangsterland. Listen! A kaleidoscope of kitsch layered vocals. Soaring ecstatic guitar. Insistent funky rhythm that’s lent an ear to disco. Music that dares to be different. WRITZ are unique. Able to affect all senses with a spell-binding orgy of ideas. Their words both glorify the ‘luxury’ of money, and despise the social ‘reptiles’ that descend upon it. This is the first WRITZ album and I didn’t think it would capture the power and glory of their live show. I’m glad I was wrong!”