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. New long-player ‘Serfs Up!’ continues along this avenue, as the instant gratification of their live set is traded for something much more thoughtful and textural.
‘Serfs Up!’ is initially impenetrable, but persistence is rewarding as the band sucks you deeper into their tilted netherworld with each listen. It’s by far their most interesting work to date.
The album is not so much one cohesive work as 10 uncanny vignettes with a large amount of tonal variety – but that’s not to say that this album doesn’t feel like the totally natural progression for the band. From full-throttle quaalude-infused disco, to swampy, hypnagogic jazz that sounds like it's disintegrating as it clatters out of the speakers, every minute of this album is simply essential.
Often slow and meandering, there are no obvious, “So baby tell me, is it raining in your mouth?” choruses or memorable lines to grasp onto inbetween the opener ‘Feet’ and the repeated lyrical motifs of the final track ‘Bobby’s Boyfriend’. However, this only serves as added motivation to unlock this cryptic masterwork, which reveals more of itself with every note.
Indeed, it’s the closing gambit ‘Bobby’s Boyfriend’ that is perhaps the choice cut here. It sounds like latter-stage Miles Davis blowing a vuvuzela atop a Wall of Voodoo record on the wrong speed, whilst elsewhere on the record cosmic waltzer ‘Rock Fishes’ demonstrates that despite all the chaos, Saul Adamczewski has one of the most remarkable ears for a wistful, gorgeous guitar line – at times, the band radiate a staggering amount of beauty.
That’s not to say that the Fat Whites have really mellowed that much; yes, they’ve stopped yelling about Goebbels and Shipman, but their music still makes your skin crawl, your shoulders tense, and your windpipe produce strange laughter. ‘Tastes Good With The Money’ combines Gregorian chants with a Glitter Band stomp and a filthy Os Mutantes riff as Saoudi cackles, “We could be home owners, this time next year”, whilst lead single ‘Feet’ is a flat out disco floor-filler, chugging recklessly through a scorched and brazen soundscape.
Whether the Fat Whites are cavaleering through a disco dystopia or spinning together tramadol-dub ditties, their music remains an essential and completely unstoppable force.
Words: Cal Cashin
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