All Time Low, the first single from Fetish off the first studio album the group has recorded together since 1999’s So Many Prophets, offers a glimpse into the life Little Heart breathes into the band that was once South Africa’s top alternative rock act – becoming the first local band to be signed to EMI’s Virgin imprint, and supporting acts like Skunk Anansie and Placebo on their tours. A band that, back then – through Michelle Breeze’s arresting voice – gave shape and sound to feelings not often expressed on the South African music landscape.
Despite a decade between their last performance and the two reunion gigs performed in Cape Town and Joburg earlier this year, the band’s members – Breeze, Ross Campbell on bass, Dominic Forrest on guitar, Jeremy Daniel on bass and David Fiene on keyboards – came together to record with producer Chris Tuck, who worked with them before on previous albums, and who continued to work with Breeze, even after she moved to London and the group disbanded around 2004.
Tuck still deftly weaves his touch into the group’s music, something that has never been an issue with Fetish, but the layer of distinction that comes from having Little Heart mastered at Abbey Road Studios takes the sound to the next level – one that should have been the natural progression for a burgeoning band like Fetish, but that one they never got back then. It fills me with a desire to wish I could hear earlier Fetish tracks like Never Enough or Shade of a Ghost re-recorded to see what they would have sounded like, given this polished treatment. But those songs were of a certain time and their gritty recording is part of what gave them and others their rough charm.
“Don’t you remember…” sings Breeze, as the album opens, “…we were the ones against it all.” That they were. The fighting DIY spirit that drove the band to create 100 original handmade covers for their debut album is still there. Although it’s now tempered somewhat, it’s evident in the official video for the single, which was made using a Samsung Galaxy S3 and stop frame stills on a Canon 400D taken by Breeze, and edited by Campbell.
The subjects Fetish used to deal in are still there too – the tinge of regret (All Time Low), disillusionment (Merry Go Round) and the claustrophobic relationships too comfortable to leave (Over the Edge). But, as one would expect with so many years having gone by, there’s also a maturing of spirit and sound. In the time past, Breeze, like other band members, became a parent, reflected in Little Heart. She also witnessed her adopted home-town of London, become engulfed in protest last year, leaving questions unanswered for it and other big cities like it (Paper Skies).
If the band’s self-titled debut album was the gasping for air taken while falling down, and So Many Prophets the deep full breathe that saves a life, then Little Heart is a resuscitation, solid and steady, setting up Fetish for its new future. Even if the band itself may not be sure what that future holds, as the album’s closing track ends with the line “no one comes to show the way.” Being grown up doesn’t make life any easier to deal with.
Download Little Heart here.