If you’re a normal person, you probably only really recognize the name ‘Falco’ from his 1985 hit, ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ – a novelty-esque, one-hit wonder in the eyes of many. A one-hit wonder that landed Falco (born Johann ‘Hans’ Hölzel) the only German-spoken song to reach number one in the US.
If you’re like me, though, you know that Falco has a pretty impressive back catalogue encompassing new wave, pop, rock, dance music and some strange blend of Austrian beat-rap. And in recent years, his albums have started getting the remaster treatment. Many of his releases have, for decades now, been out of production – tough to secure in vinyl or CD format.
Well, the latest Falco re-issue is here, a 2022 deluxe remastering of 1988’s Wiener Blut. And boy, is it a day long-awaited for fans of the Austrian pop icon. The record, like many of Falco’s offerings, hit the charts in his native Austria (peaking at the number two spot), as well as Germany and Switzerland, but did little to make waves further west. For much of his life, the pop singer would try to recapture the spirit of his third release, Falco 3 – home to ‘Amadeus’, and his best-selling album internationally.
And yet there’s no reason why Wiener Blut should have done all that badly in the UK and beyond. It was released at a time when music was all about flash. Whether it was cheesy, high-energy pop, or the hard riffs and flashy riffs of glam metal, it needed to be big. It needed to make a statement, even if the lyrical content itself was relatively throwaway. And Wiener Blut has that in spades. If you look past the intrinsic xenophobia of the album’s largely non-English language, it has rock numbers. It has dance numbers. It has contagious pop in spades.
The title track, for instance – the album’s opener – is one of the catchiest songs put to record. It’s a bold statement, but the simplistic backbone of this pop-rock number is invasive in all the right ways, remaining the record’s highlight. ‘Wiener Blut’ is actually a track about deep-rooted, Vienne corruption, but that might have become lost in the insanely infectious Eurobeat. It’s a strong start, though.
‘Falco Rides Again’ is about as egotistical as Falco ever gets, but thankfully it has a punchy backbeat behind it. Just as the titular piece of his previous Emotional album made him out to be a sensitive, well, emotional man, ‘Falco Rides Again’ gives our Austrian the image of a beaten, forgotten soul – left to fend for himself in the bitter wilderness of eastern-Europe pop music. It’s perhaps one of the more forgettable songs, but listenable, nonetheless.
‘Untouchable’, meanwhile, is a highlight of the record, proving air-batteringly catchy in every way. An ode to teenage lust, it’s as simple as you can get. And that’s where Falco tends to shine. ‘Tricks’ is another example, if a touch less memorable – though both pack solid performances in the choruses.
The list of homages to which Falco has paid is bizarre. There is, of course, his pop-rock testament to Austria’s favourite classical loverboy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. On Emotional, Falco gave a shoutout to renowned war photographer, Robert Capa. Well, here we have an odd to film icon, Greta Garbo. It’s a strange love letter of sorts, but again, a real highlight in Falco’s career – and something a bit more complex than we’ve come to expect on Wiener Blut so far.
Falco’s fifth studio release has its fair share of ballads and side two gets to show the man’s deeper moments in the studio. ‘Satellite to Satellite’, one of the album’s singles, is a worthy anthem, with ‘Walls of Silence’ proving perhaps Falco’s most underrated moment yet. Had this been sung by a more mainstream, Western artist, I could see ‘Walls…’ being a chart hit – it’s about as poetic and powerful as a ballad need be.
Sadly, side two of Wiener Blut is also where the cracks begin to show, and Falco’s slightly bloated sense of self-belief goes a step too far. It’s clear he and producers Bolland & Bolland had too much freedom, and too little sense of economy. ‘Read A Book’, ‘Solid Booze’ and ‘Sand am Himalaya’ have their moments in the sun, but little more. The latter half of Wiener Blut bleeds into one fairly congested mess.
That is until we reach the final track – a groove-a-licious, dance reworking of Steely Dan’s ‘Do It Again’. And, wow, it works. It’s better than the original track (a song I’ve really come to love recently), and perhaps claws back the last vestiges that Falco is a bit of a mastermind after all. It takes some nerve to take a catchy, ‘70s rock tune and overlay it with backing vocalists and beats-a-plenty. But it pays off. And makes a downright funky finale.
The deluxe version of Wiener Blut also contains some real gems, namely in the countless different versions of ‘Body Next to Body’ previously put only to record – a song recorded around the same time as Wiener Blut with vocal accompaniment from Brigitte Nielsen. They’re a nice touch, and it’s really a great late ‘80s rock song, to put it simply.
Are most people going to care much for this album? No. It’s a half-German, half-English spoken record shrouded in mystery, forgotten in time, recorded by an Austrian artist most people regard as a slightly embarrassing, novelty one-hit wonder. But if I’m the one British fan keeping the fires burning for Falco, then I’ll take it. Wiener Blut is a pretty consistent attempt at club-friendly dance meeting rock ‘n roll halfway. There are some weak ballads, some powerful ones, and a slew of tracks which never fail to get me lost in the world of my headphones.
Wiener Blut isn’t the highest point in ‘80s music. It’s not even the highest point of Falco’s career. But it’s far from the lowest in both camps, and a solid album all the same. It’s also nice to see the musician’s back catalogue finally getting some recognition, even if I’m slightly suspicious that I’m the only Brit appreciating it.