Album Review: Fat White Family – Serfs Up!

If you hadn’t ever delved into Fat White Family’s discography, you’ve definitely heard of the notorious seven-piece. Fat White Family are a band as the human manifestation of clickbait-  most recently they have made headlines waging in on the debate between IDLES and Sleaford Mods. Before that: previous victims include; Wolf Alice, Slaves, and Palma Violets to name a few. And although, yes they had a point guitar music was becoming apathetic and self-indulgent, offering themselves up as the prophecy seemed like a questionable alternative for some.

To many they were the renegades of early 2010’s guitar music, spitting in the very face of the slick and mechanical. Though there live performances were hair-raising and genuinely intriguing, their debut Champagne Holocaust felt for many, incredibly abrasive in the most cliche and prosaic way possible. In avoiding every mainstream convention possible, they had slipped into their role of counter-cultural cliche.

Fast-forward to 2018 – after been plagued by endless drama and debauchery, what with Saul’s heroin addiction, the various side projects and almost complete implosion back in 2016, Fat White Family return with Serf’s Up! Following the success of Lias’ synth-art rock group The Moonlandingz and Saul’s lounge-pop group Insecure Men, the interest in the nucleus of the two groups was beginning to become questionable. Though, there rendez-vous to Sheffield and substituting Ketamine and Alcohol for Cocaine and Heroin seems to have been a wise move. Serf’s Up! Is a world away from the band who would once rub themselves in pig shit on stage; perhaps they’ve realised that being deliberately incendiary isn’t always the way to get the point across.

‘Feet’ is the opener a smoothly produced, disco intonated spectacle; an opulent and indulgent track, which is quite something for a band that’s manifesto centers around transgression, and anti-conservatism. What was very much lost in the first two albums, was showcasing Lias’ talent as a lyricist. In the toning down of the abrasive instrumentation, the draconian tongue-in-cheek humour is delivered with flair. For example in ‘Feet’ the proclamation “I hope your children wash up bloated on my shore”, it becomes less Burrough’s-esque obscene, and more subversive. However, just when you think they’ve mellowed in the slightest, they drop the n***er slur. Although the band have proclaimed it a parody in the past, there are other ways to get the point across.

Moving into ‘I Believe In Something Better’ it proves the title is not always a promise, fiery pessimism is soundtracked by processed beats, which eventually welcome in an organ piece. ‘Fridge Runner’ is sleazy showcase of funk beats, and even acid house esque noise, seeing the band experiment with different textures, one of the standout tracks of the album. ‘Oh Sebastian’ opens with an orchestral arrangement, could you have imagined that from Fat White’s three years ago? But they haven’t strayed too far from their manifesto with the opening line expressing “Is there anything more exciting than a menial job and the pittance it brings?”.

Baroque-esque ‘Tastes Good With The Money’ is an ironic mocking of the establishment, a brooding affair where Lias takes a stance against the apathy of Kensington onlookers in the Grenfell Tower affair. It features an appearance from bard of West London Baxter Dury, who’s cynical drawl fits into the song like salt to an already gaping wound, as he respires with  “There’s ash in your latte”.

Whereas Saul’s guitar used to be the spectacle in the band’s music, a lot of Serf’s Up! finds it creeping around the edges of the arrangement, like a hungry parasite. It’s songs like ‘Rock Fishes’ that showcases his ear for a glimmering riff; however in classic Fat White’s style beauty isn’t transient, as the song ends in an explosive crescendo.

‘Bobby’s Boyfriend’ is a questionable end, as the droning vocals repeat the refrain “Bobby’s boyfriend is a prostitute”, to discordant instrumentation. It could easily have been off of their earlier albums, it’s absurdist and venereal but comedic in a sort of DaDa-esque way.

Overall Serf’s up! oozes decadence; embracing the decay of the nation in the most sensual and glam way possible. Although at times you can’t help but miss the obscenity of pass Fat White’s records, their latest output takes this and encases it in a more mature and sophisticated manner.

Serfs Up! is out now on Domino Record’s grab your copy here.