If you were into punk culture in the `90s, maybe the name Wizo (to pronounce Veezo) will ring a bell. Fat Mike, of NOFX fame, introduced us to these German punk rockers in the mid-`90s and released two records by them on Fat Wreck Chords: UUAARGH! in `95 and Kraut & Rüben in `98. Unfortunately for us, though, the North American version of UUAARGH! left out many songs that were on the original German release, and Kraut & Rüben is actually a compilation of some of their best post-UUAARGH! songs. Their first albums, now put together on the same record, never made it to North America, and that’s really a shame since it’s really the best of the best.
Bleib Tapfer / Für´n Arsch starts strong with the songs "Bei Dir" ("With You") and "Mein Tod" ("My Death"), two songs that totally rock, just to slow down for the title song of the first part of the record, Bleib Tapfer ("Stay Brave"). I will not review every song of the album. There are too many and it would make this review painful to read. Let’s just say that for each fast song, there is a mellower, more melodic one. This is not a bad thing, since Axel Kurth has a very beautiful voice that I really dig. It’s no wonder that my favorite song on there is "Alte Frau" ("Old Lady"), a mellow song tinged with black (but funny) humor that reminds us that life can end at any time. Death is a recurrent theme on the album by the way, but often addressed in a humorous way. Some songs are thrown in as a joke ("Der Käfer" and "K.I.K. Iii") but are not overly long and fit nicely in between the other gems this album has to offer.
Lyrically and musically, if you listened to UUAARGH!, you know what to expect. There are not too many songs in English, though, and since this release is not officially available here, there is no English translation for the songs, as the North American version of UUAARGH! had. However, if you can read the lyrics, you’ll realize that they are sometimes witty, often funny but always punk. Four songs are in English though, and most of them are good. The song "Unemployed" is an ode to unemployment and mocks the system in a unique and humorous way.
Speaking of the lyrics, a major disappointment is the removal of the voice on the song "Kein Gerede" ("No Gossiping"). For those unfamiliar with this story, this song has been forbidden in Germany after it has been said to incite terrorism. When you read the lyrics, it’s true that they don’t seem to make a point and just call to total rebellion. However, it’s obvious that the intent of this song was to be funny, not to make people blow up the prisons and the banks (or was it?). It’s a major step backward for freedom of speech. For those interested, you can find a live version of this song on YouTube.
To conclude this review, the import of this record is strongly recommended. It’s more than 15-years-old and it’s still one of the most solid punk albums ever released (I am talking about the new school of punk here, of course). This and UUAARGH! are must-have, but they kind of went downhill after that. However, Wizo at their peak is better than anything else.