Little Heart breathes new life into Fetish

Fetish: Little Heart (Just Music, 2012)

Digging out my old Fetish albums to prep for reviewing Little Heart (2012), the band's first CD since 2006's Remains, I felt again the thrill of handling their debut offering, Fetish. I remember being at the launch in 1997, in a tiny jazz venue in the bowels of Longkloof Studios in Cape Town, and being utterly seduced by the handmade CD covers. They came in four colours, I think (I own red and blue copies), and were made of a strangely ridged cloth, with Fetish scrawled on the front in dark gold letters. Contrast that to my first touch point for Fetish's new album – a link in an email.

It seemed part and parcel of the band's mystique then, although we now know they just couldn't afford to have their CD professionally packaged. Spent all their millions on the band jet, I assume. But the DIY aesthetic seemed appropriate to the intensely personal music they made, and the dark and venomously sexual persona of singer Michelle Breeze. Whether any of this was reality is immaterial. As a fan, you saw what you needed to see, you heard what Fetish made you hear, and it was beautiful.

They were – and possibly still are, despite their peregrinations – a ferociously local band. Songs such as Blue Blanket simultaneously celebrated and eviscerated Cape Town's artistic underbelly, and Breeze's own emotional maelstrom. "It's easy to be hip, cool and composed/ when you got R300 up your nose/ So I think I found God/ On the Lower Main Rd in Woodstock" is as cutting today as it was 15 years ago.

I was tempted to not bother writing this review, and just use this great one I found on the net while researching the band: "The Little Heart Flapper may look like one of the more innocent Fetish tools, but this weighty Little Heart packs lots of sting if used just right". It's as true of Little Heart the album as it is of Little Heart the Flapper. You need to really listen to this album, with dedication, to fully appreciate how far Dominic Forrest's guitars range across a terrain of rhythmic repetition punctuated with sudden power. I find it hard to describe the sound of Fetish, possibly because I feel it too much. You'll get a sense of perfect pace from the songs, as if trip hop became a ballad. It's elegiac without being heavy, big on intricate guitar-driven melody and the sort of skillful drumming that underpins without being ostentatious.


But the crucial question is whether the dark wave susurration of 90s rock can translate into the buzzing digital monochrome of 2012. Is Little Heart a homage to the past, a placeholder for the present, or a gesture toward the future? Even more simply – is there a potential new audience for Fetish, or is this a nostalgic offering to die-hard fans?

Short answer: it's a lovely album that will win Fetish many new fans, while at the same time remaining true to the dark vision that converted so many people at the beginning. It's tempting to see Merry go round, possibly my favourite track off Little Heart, as the manifesto for Fetish's rebirth. "Merry go round, merry go round/Everything changes/Pity we got off so soon/When we were young/We did things for fun/Not to pay the rent/Nobody cared if tomorrow was there/Or if we would make it."

Because Fetish did get off the merry go round, that pretty-near thankless carnival ride that is alternative rock music in South Africa. So why are they back? I could ask them, but it's more fun to deduce their motives from their music. On Paper Skies, a collaboration with Shadowclub's Jacques Moolman, Breeze sings: "There must be something in the pressure/pushing us together/ all the air has gone".

Let's imagine that this is about the creative lack that the individual members felt when the band took its hiatus, and that this album is the joyous sound of them breathing again.

Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisroper

Listen to Little Heart

Check out Fetish in the recording studio, on Rolling Stone

There's some super-interesting background info about Fetish on Daily Maverick.

Watch the video for All Time Low.

For more in-depth album reviews, see our speciai report.

 

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Chris Roper
Chris Roper

Chris Roper was editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian from July 2013 - July 2015.

Related stories

Digital pioneer whose kindness stood out

Matthew Buckland, 1974-2019

For Emilly-Rose, who is not old enough to read this

"People do not like to be outed, to feel shamed, even when they have wronged. It is more likely that you will be made to feel even weaker".

Being kinky is the new normal

Happy kinksters do not have a mental disorder – but unhappy kinksters do.

Christianity is the enemy of Christianity

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng's call for religion to influence the laws that govern the country could lead to the oppression of other religions.

Fat cats fall out: Sisulu vs Kasrils

Minister Lindiwe Sisulu takes on Ronnie Kasrils and allows us insight into the truth of what it means to be an ANC politician, writes Chris Roper.

I’m over Outa

Outa's press release paints its opposition to paying tolls as a mighty crusade. But there are much more important battles to fight.
Advertising

Subscribers only

Covid-19 surges in the Eastern Cape

With people queuing for services, no water, lax enforcement of mask rules and plenty of partying, the virus is flourishing once again, and a quarter of the growth is in the Eastern Cape

Ace prepares ANC branches for battle

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is ignoring party policy on corruption-charged officials and taking his battle to branch level, where his ‘slate capture’ strategy is expected to leave Ramaphosa on the ropes

More top stories

‘We struggle for water, but power stations and coal mines...

A proposed pipeline will bring water polluted with Gauteng’s sewage to the Waterberg in Limpopo to boost the coal industry during the climate crisis

Journey through anxious Joburg

A new book has collected writing about the condition of living, yes, with a high crime rate, but also other, more pervasive existential urban stresses particular to the Global South

Football legend Maradona dies

The Argentinian icon died at his home on Wednesday, two weeks after having surgery on a blood clot in his brain

Covid vaccines: Hope balanced with caution

As Covid vaccines near the manufacturing stage, a look at two polio vaccines provides valuable historical insights
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…