The debut album from FIZZ – the indie pop supergroup made up of Greta Isaac, Dodie, Orla Gartland, and Martin Luke Brown – promises more than most. The project feels hugely diverse, albeit grounded in camaraderie. Many questions of how the band would fare – being the product of four established independent artists – seem to have been answered with an album that feels as if it’s a window into a standard FIZZ studio session. It’s a trustworthy project, proving that great friendship can make even greater music.
‘A New Phase Awaits You :-)’ begins the project – inoffensive muzak in the back of a smooth infomercial, selling listeners the cure to sadness. The title track follows: immediately, the riff is recognisable to those familiar with the Sunday With Fizz podcast, and the song quickly solidifies the line between fun and seriousness which the singles had been dancing around. The grotty guitar and laddish approach to lyrics on mental health seem to settle the album in the joyful abandonment of feeling all that much about things.
The entire album continues this pattern of miraculously assigning a collective identity to a wide range of very different songs. Perhaps it is the rich vocal harmonies in every song, perhaps the frequent innuendos of existential dread, or maybe even the multitude of references to 60s and 70s legends. This is how the band can so easily draw a smooth line between the soulful The Mamas & the Papas style verses and LSD-era The Beatles choruses of ‘Strawberry Jam’ (a personal favourite) to the confessional ‘Hell of a Ride’ which has just a touch of Arctic Monkeys-like drawl.
It’s within this that the lead single ‘High In Brighton’ begins to make more sense. When released as a single, the showcase of Brightonian chaos was almost overwhelming with colour – a somewhat inaccessible departure from the solo music of each band member previously – but, as track 3 on The Secret To Life, it becomes an understandably joyful wander into ice cream and drug-induced silliness.
Each member of the band also gets their own moment to shine. Orla Gartland’s pensive ‘Close One’ (with all it’s 3am bedroom melancholy), Greta Isaac’s glorious rage in ‘As Good As It Gets’, and Dodie’s intimate, emotional craftsmanship in ‘You, Me, Lonely’. Martin Luke Brown’s solo ‘Rocket League’, which missed out on a single spot, takes on the role of an unforgettable interlude. It’s somewhere between a bedazzled Elton John piano jaunt and King George’s ‘You’ll Be Back’ in Hamilton.
The only true departure from this narrative of chaos is the album coming to a close. For a moment, we take a pause, a detour to candlelit FIZZ in a dark room: led by Isaac, and then Brown, into a time-stilling 4 minutes for ‘Lights Out’, the A Capella number is achingly yearning. Yet, we then venture into the closing song, a rock-opera imitation that brings back the fun, and some sterling vocals from Brown. It is the take on ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ perhaps Freddie Mercury would have produced if he had watched GLEE! The final song really brings the show to a close, the slowly sobering can-can kick line an easy visual. Then, with the promise that they will really miss us, the red curtain falls and The Secret To Life has been told.
Starting this album, FIZZ promised the answer to a weighty question: what is The Secret to Life? It seems they answered this question in the only way possible, to put every aspect of daily life (longing, laughter, existential dread, Rocket League) into one easily digestible place.
The product of four friends starting a band is an album full of the every day. Perhaps that’s the secret to life, have fun with your friends – maybe, just maybe, you’ll get something good out of it.
FIZZ will play the O2 Ritz in Manchester on 25th February – you can buy tickets here.