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The German three-piece WIZO have been producing hyperkinetic and loud -- yet shrewd and well-authored -- political protest punk since 1987. Formed in a small village on the outskirts of Stuttgart, Germany, about the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, WIZO played infectiously energetic punk anthems that quickly caught on with fans in Germany and around the world. WIZO's members -- guitarist/vocalist Axel, bassist Jörni, and drummer Ingo -- were disdainful regarding the arrogance of early U.S. punk. Instead, WIZO drew most of their influence from German political punk bands such as Slime and Razzia. Drawing from the British example (and finding much in Germany to protest), WIZO began to craft intelligently written protest songs. Although the focus was admittedly on message, WIZO never lost sight of the catchy energy that made punk so popular with the youth of Germany. WIZO's formula worked well enough for them to create their own label, Hulk Räckorz, and release their first album. Für'n Arsch, WIZO's first full-length release, was issued in 1991. Always with a sense for catching the media's eye, WIZO played a surprise concert (out of the back of their van) in front of the courthouse in which a famous celebrity was being tried. The media were angered, but their audience was convinced: WIZO was the bravest band in Germany. The next year, WIZO released a limited quantity of 7" "tribute" albums as a media stunt. The catch was that the "tribute" album was actually a mockery of a beloved easy listening star who had recently died. Once again, the media were outraged; Germany's biggest newspaper, Bild-Zeitung, went so far as to declare WIZO the worst band of the year. With all the free national coverage and publicity they could have asked for, WIZO were thrust into the eyes of the public. In 1993, WIZO released yet another "tribute," this one being a reworked version of superstar dance group Ace of Base's "All That She Wants." Along with the single, WIZO recorded a self-produced music video and released it to MTV Europe. Surprisingly, the video received unexpected amounts of airplay. Soon enough, European radio stations picked up on the single and began playing it constantly. In Denmark, it even managed to break the Top Ten. The trio caught the attention of NOFX's Fat Mike during a show together and was soon signed to his California-based label, Fat Wreck Chords. Their Fat Wreck debut, Uuaargh!, appeared in June 1995; 1998's compilation EP Kraut & Rüben next brought German-only release tracks to an American audience. ~ David Cornelius

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1987 in Sindelfingen, Germany

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