Release Date: Apr 19, 2019
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
On their third record 'Serfs Up!' the rancid rockers finally realise their ambitions. Repulsion still reigns, but this time they have the tunes to pull you in Fat White Family are a band reborn. 'Serfs Up!' is the richest, most accomplished music they've ever written. This is an about turn from the south London misanthropes’ second album that was rotten with dissonance and references to the Third Reich.
Their previous album, Songs For Our Mothers, was released all the way back in January 2016. To most humans, that feels like a lifetime ago - especially considering all of the dystopia-as-real-life events that have shaken the world since. In the meantime, there have been no less than about six million side projects, spin-off bands, tangent albums and colouring books released from various configurations of the group - so much so that spin-off band The Moonlandingz has its own spin-off band, the rather excellent International Teachers of Pop .
With two polarizing albums of rickety misanthropic lo-fi shenanigans under their belt, Britain's Fat White Family add a dash of pop grandeur to their still-difficult third outing. More often than not, the Peckham-bred combo have inspired a love-them-or-loathe-them reaction, pitting provocative humor and biting satire against an underachieving backdrop of tinny Casio synths and harsh, wonky psych guitars. While many celebrated their chaotic approach, it always seemed like something a bit more substantial was around the corner.
Fat White Family appear like some musical hydra; where you chop off one head, three more spring up. If they're not releasing increasingly focused sleaze-pop as their main moniker, they're winging off into: Moonlandingz, The Insecure Men, Eccentronic Research Council or Warmduscher to burn off some of their excess creativity. The brothers Saoudi (Lias and Nathan) and wonky-toothed Saul Adamczewski continue their trajectory from documenting the pound-shop sleaze of the gutter by climbing up onto the pavement, where the dirt is more sophisticated at belying its origins.
It's been three years - three long, godforsaken years - since the release of Fat White Family's second full length album 'Songs For Our Mothers', and whilst the band has hibernated until recently, their nefarious influence has wormed its way into Britain's guitar music culture like no other in their absence. Ever divisive, a trope of the Fat Whites is that their live shows recieve many more plaudits than their records. Live, the band evoke a feeling of utter nihilistic abandon, a full-body gnostic exorcism, but on record go for something far more nuanced.
A band always seemingly more interested in notoriety than grand musical statements, Fat White Family's creative core appeared to have split in two after 2016's controversy-craving (Goebbels! Shipman! Auschwitz!) but underwhelming Songs for Our Mothers, with guitarist Saul Adamczewski forming Insecure Men and frontman Lias Saoudi reappearing in Moonlandingz. So Serfs Up! represents a double surprise: first that it exists at all and second that it's unrecognisably good. Whereas their past excursions into lo-fi art-rock were all too in thrall to Throbbing Gristle, there's a hitherto unheard melodic nous to the likes of recent single Feet and I Believe in Something Better, the former a skyscraping epic meticulously and irresistibly built up layer by layer, the latter redolent of early-80s Sheffield synthpop.