Fat White Family are a band I cannot claim to be overly familiar with but they came with extremely high recommendations from a variety of friends and musicians, including some of my favourite local bands … Gladboy recently told me that Fat White Family were a common denominator for them in that all six band members of that band loved FWF and it was no surprise to see them here for this one.
Support on this gig was from Sorry, a London band whom I saw in the same venue sharing the bill with Shame and Fontaines DC at the tail end of last year but again something wasn’t clicking and although some liked them they didn’t do it for me, nor many that I spoke with after. There was the odd flicker of promise but something was obviously lacking and we didn’t connect. Sorry, just not my thing.
If Sorry were plodding (as I heard them described) then Fat White Family were driving, insistent and intense, transcending genres and labels. Opening with When I Leave (!) and by third song I Am Mark E. Smith I knew we were into something very special and into Gigs of the Year territory. Another friend remarked that he’d planned to pick up a vinyl copy of new album Serf’s Up and already, just a few dates into the tour, they were completely sold out. That tells you all you need to know about the quality of the new material and the live set. Filled with flavours of post-punk, a heavy dose of stomping 70s glam, 80s electro and even strong hints of Roxy Music plus the brooding darkness of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, especially with those deep choral chants, and Slim Cessna’s Auto Club intensity whilst creating something utterly unique. The songs were big, dirty, loud and dramatic, this was glorious, powerful stuff. The spirit of exciting rock ‘n’ roll is alive and well in Fat White Family who put on a superb live show.
So enjoyable that it felt over all too quickly at just shy of an hour but with a show of this quality and intensity that gave everything. They pleased everyone with a selection from Serf’s Up as well as a liberal sprinkling from their back catalogue, including the likes of I Am Mark E. Smith and Touch the Leather. They entertained the near capacity Waterfront throughout, the venue filled with a mixed crowd from youngsters to veteran first-wave punks. This was a gem of a gig and I join that long list of those who highly recommend them.
“FAT WHITE FAMILY return with their third album ‘Serfs Up!’
Serfs Up! is Fat White Family’s third album and their first for new label Domino. Released on Friday 19th April 2019 it marks the most gratifying and unexpected creative volte face in recent musical history.
The band have today shared the first track to be taken from the album, Feet, a triumphant return which perfectly heralds the overwhelming musical scope and ambition of the album.
Having released their second album, Songs For Our Mothers in January 2016, core-members Lias and Nathan Saoudi relocated to Sheffield and set about writing the album. Joined by co-conspirator Saul Adamczewski and recorded at their own Champzone studios in the Attercliffe area of the city, Serfs Up! was finished in late autumn 2018 with the help of long-time collaborator, Liam D. May and features a guest appearance from Baxter Dury on Tastes Good With The Money.
Serfs Up! is a lush and masterful work, lascivious and personal. Tropical, sympathetic and monumental. It invites the listener in rather than repel them through wilful abrasion. Fat White Family have broken previous default patterns of behaviour, and as such their third album heralds a new day dawning.
Gregorian chants, jackboot glam beats, string flourishes, sophisticated and lush cocktail exotica, electro funk and the twin spirits of Alan Vega and Afrika Bambaataa punctuate the record at various junctures, while the dramatic production of Feet is as immaculately-rendered as ‘Hounds of Love’-era Kate Bush. The dirt is still there of course, but scrape it away and you’ll find a purring engine, gleaming chrome.
Echoing within the arrangements throughout are traces of blissed-out 60s Tropicalia, Velvets/Bowie sleaze-making and star-gazing, 80s digital dancehall, David Axelrod-style easy listening, joyous Pet Shop Boys synth crescendos, acid house, post-PIL dub, metropolitan murder ballads, doom-disco and mouth-gurning, slow-mo psychedelia so by the time it comes to a close only a fool would deny that Serfs Up! is something very special. No longer is unadulterated music malevolence Fat White Family’s stock in trade; this is cultivated music for the head, the heart. For tomorrow’s unborn children.
Where once they soundtracked a grubby Britain of vape shops, Fray Bentos dinners and blackened tin-foil, a crepuscular comedown realm stalked by Shipman, Goebbels and Mark E. Smith, Fat White Family now inhabit another cosmos entirely. Serfs Up! is the product of a band of outlaws reborn. Few but themselves could have forecast it: Fat White Family survived. Fat White Family got wise. Fat White Family got sophisticated.”
Big thanks to Everything Is Fine Music for another very fine booking.