New indie supergroup FIZZ dropped their debut album, The Secret to Life, a 12-song maximalist record full to the brim with fun and unadulterated joy.
Composed of pop artists and best friends dodie, Orla Gartland, Greta Isaac and Martin Luke Brown, the album takes a hard turn past any of the members’ usual sounds, indulging in a whimsical and theatrical tone while retaining their signature lyrical subjects of past loves and the general angst of life.
This theatricality is clear from the opener, ‘A New Phase Awaits You :-)’, a parody of an Infomercial, voiced by Gartland, persuading a weary listener to “open (their) mind and wallet” and embark on the emotional journey of this album. The ending of the song makes the listener feel like they are falling into a dream.
The first part of this dream carries the bright energy that underpins the album, with the songs ‘The Secret to Life’ and ‘High in Brighton’. The titular song, which starts with piano chords and foot stomps, bursts into a chorus, a four-party harmony that continues throughout the song. ‘High in Brighton’ makes for a quick and fresh tune, befitting the subject of an escapade to sunny, fantastic coast side. There are soundbites from the members through each song, with the title song ending with laughter – it’s clear the band had a blast making this album. Both in the production – which is interesting and layered throughout – and in the lyrics – which can go from silly and frantic to genuine and subdued from one verse to the other – there is an undercurrent of creative glee.
The album’s quieter moments come later: ‘Strawberry Jam’ is a brief interlude, lamenting feelings of loneliness and boredom, but it is not too long before it rises in tempo and volume. ‘You, Me, Lonely’ and ‘Close One’ provide room to breathe as two stunning ballads, showcasing the members’ signature for singing about heartbreak and relationship troubles.
Alongside this duality, the members also get their own moment in the spotlight. ‘Close One’ instrumentally feels like a Gartland single, ‘I Just Died’ highlights Dodie’s gentle vocals, powerful, backdropped by a choppy guitar, and ‘Rocket League’ is a comical short bop led by Brown, about playing video-games with friends. But these moments are short-lived, as the album feels like a blend of their signature sounds, an ode of a four-way friendship that allows them to grow creatively and musically.
When the album picks up pace again, it doesn’t hit as hard as the first, high-energy part of the album; having reached an emotional peak early in the album, everything that comes after is hard to compare. But we get some great vocals, with Brown hailing the joy of being alive and the briefness of life in ‘Hell of a Ride’, and Isaac and Gartland’s harmonies in ‘Good as It Gets’. In ‘Lights Out’, these vocals come together in a quiet streak, to a calm, gentle segue to the end of the album.
This emotional rollercoaster brings us to the ‘The Grand Finale’, a musical number to a melodramatic farewell. It manages to wrap up the different musical motifs and themes of the album, blending a guitar solo and teary lyrics, embracing the theatricality of the album and wrapping it up quite nicely in its 5-minute span.
FIZZ’s debut tries to combine many things, and although the second half does not reach the epic highs of the first half, the talent and creativity of the members is clear throughout the album, as well as their friendship.
Words by Catarina Vicente
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