John Watts - The Iceberg Model
The Iceberg Model represents a quite radical departure for John Watts from his previous work. Whereas One More Twist had been, for many, Fischer-Z Mark Two, John Watts decided on a radical departure for his second solo album. The innovative side of his musical vision came to the fore with this album and as such it is unlike anything else in his catalogue. It is perhaps the single most divisive album in his entire discography. Some regard this as his best output, but I, like many others, find it the album which I have the least regard for among his entire collection. And anyway, in my view nothing can and ever will compare with Red Skies over Paradise.
With The Iceberg Model, John Watts has made a departure from his guitar driven style, and opted for a sound which revolves much more around horns and strings and enhanced keyboard. For the former, he turned to the horn section of what had once been Dexy's Midnight Runners (before Kevin Rowlands took them off the rails). This feature of the album is the most obvious departure from pervious efforts, and while the addition of horns worked for some bands - Lloyd Cole and the Commotions provide a case in point - I am not sure that they do here.
The result is interesting, if not always successful. The album is well worth a listen as it hangs together well, without actually having any tracks really stand out as distinctive (with the exception of the closing, title track) - more about that later. It takes some time to appreciate this and requires pretty constant listening to maintain that appreciation. However, I always found plenty more in John Watts' catalogue which appealed more than this, so a long-term appreciation never materialised. I guess I never really got used to this album and have listened to it less and less with the passage of the years.
This album has its moments - the first four tracks are pretty good and "I Smelt Roses In The Underground" being the best of them. This is a catchy and rambunctious tune in places and deals with the ability to find beauty anywhere, even in the most unlikely places. Many of the rest of the tracks carry the sharp and incisive lyrics which had, by now, become John Watts' trademark. "Interference" and "Man in Someone Else's Skin" are pretty much in the same vein and give the listener high hopes of the remainder of the album.
Sadly, it begins to tail off sharply after that. The tracks seem to lose their focus and gradually merge into a pattern of sameness. That is, until you come to the end. The title track which closes the album is a considerable disappointment. It is an instrumental which is far too experimental and consists of a disjointed swirling sound of synthesisers and horns, lacking any real coherence to it all. I think that was a conscious decision. It is completely out of place with the rest of the album, indeed with the rest of John Watts' entire catalogue. I have to say find this track to be the least likeable of all of John Watts' music and was glad that it was a one off the like of which was never repeated.
One thing though - this was the second album out of five from Fischer-Z and/or John Watts with a drawing of Brighton on the sleeve. I know he likes the place, and lives there to this day, but....
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