Gary Raymond reviews the new album from the latest indie pop supergroup, The Secret to Life by FIZZ, featuring Greta Isaacs.
Hailing from the musical mecca that is Cowbridge in south Wales, Greta Isaac seems to have come of age quicker than anyone might have expected, stepping from out of her own shadow as a solo artist of punchy pop-folk to fronting this new arthouse supergroup, (rather unfortunately named FIZZ – not many words are improved by adding the prefix of “Bucks”). Alongside Martin Luke Brown, Irish singer-songwriter Orla Gartland, and Dodie Clarke (the latter two of whom can boast top 10 albums and gazillions of streams between them), Isaac is stepping up in a creative maelstrom that seems to be getting the best out of the lot of them.
So much of Fizz suggests it should be utterly forgettable for any brain that remembers watching the twin towers come down, full of overwrought guitars and songs about boyfriends not snapchatting back or whatever. But The Secret to Life is full of mature ideas delivered with an astute mix of delicacy and confidence. No place here for the washed-out production of a typical landfill indie album. This is a record of open spaces, rattling guitars and vulnerable vocals that actually sound vulnerable. Fizz sound like that rare thing of a supergroup brought together by the lure of the musical tastes of the artists, by friendship, an admiration for cross-pollination, and by the anticipation of magical sparks flying from the point where big creative personalities collide. It is, to quote the Bard, a cracking album.
The main spark is the workings of the thing created when Isaac comes together with Martin Luke Brown whose 2023 album Damn, Look at the View! plays comfortably at the top end of what heartfelt indie music has to offer nowadays. Both are excellent songwriters, employing a mixture of astute observations with authentic go-with-the-heart craftsmanship. All those things work well here, but, as we hope with all such super-arrangements, Fizz is so much more than the sum of its parts.
Really very good song-writing sucks in nods to artists as diverse as Sparks, Avril Lavigne, and Billie Holiday whilst also managing to remind me of hucksters like Muse, Mew, and a hundred other bands at their best writing very quiet songs and then playing them very loud indeed.
But the trick of Fizz may be just how good a project can be when free of the pressures of the algorithm. The Secret to Life was recorded in a two week splurge in a studio in Devon, almost in a fit of collective rebellion to the careers the four of them have forged/been tied into it. The album feels like an explosion of creativity. It is joyous and serious and everything you’d want from a bunch of talented youngsters doing what they love, no holds barred.
It may be easy for older generations to be slightly sniffy about the metrics of streamed music – (Orla Gartland boasts 25million YouTube views as a solo artist: turn them into record sales and she’d be bigger than Prince) – but what we should be focussing on is the vitality and originality of the music, and Fizz have more than enough of this to go around. The Secret to Life, then, is don’t believe the hype but do take a moment to listen to the album, and therein lies the answers you seek.
The Secret to Life by Fizz is out now on Decca.