In a sentence:
More dynamic and diverse than anything they’ve done before, ‘Serfs Up!’ is where the hype around Fat White Family is finally justified.
It’s taken a long time for Fat White Family to get to where they are today. Countless bust-ups,
make-ups, hirings, firings, and the odd heroin addiction had so far produced
two very good albums – 2013’s sleazy Champagne Holocaust and the
somehow-even-sleazier Songs For Our Mothers – yet
the Fat Whites have yet to make a great record – until now. By moving from
Brixton to Sheffield and boiling the group down to a core of three principal
songwriters, frontman Lias Saoudi, guitarist Saul Adamczewski, and Lias’
brother Nathan on keyboards, the Fat Whites seem to have cracked their own
code. The resulting album, Serfs Up!,
is what Fat White Family’s fans have been waiting for since 2013.
Serfs Up! is a real joy, because the Fat White Family have at last found themselves as a band. Whilst their first two albums were solid post-punk efforts, they were so frustrating – everybody knew there was more to the Fat Whites than the scuzzy, swampy gross-outs they came to be known for. Until now, the idea of the Fat White Family was always more appealing than how the band actually sounded, but Serfs Up! really flips that idea on its head. All of the songs are fully realised, and there is a much greater variety of sounds and textures across the tracklist.
Although the Fat Whites still inhabit the surreal,
hypnagogic twilight zone somewhere in between disco, funk, punk, and Throbbing
Gristle, Serfs Up!’s appeal lies in
the broadening of the band’s horizons. They certainly channel their original
influences, particularly in the
queasy grooves of opener ‘Feet’
and the dusty rhythm of ‘I
Believe In Something Better’, and Lias’ distant voice even has a twang of
Genesis P-Orridge about it. However, the full range of the band’s taste is
allowed to really shine through on other tracks on Serfs Up!. ‘Vagina
Dentata’ sounds like a vaporwave rendition of ‘Benny And The Jets’, and ‘Oh Sebastian’ has the twee
chamber-pop charm of John Cale’s early solo work. ‘Fringe Runner’ is one of the
band’s most danceable songs to date, and ‘Rock Fishes’ channels smooth
It is hard to put into words the degree to which Serfs Up! is better than the rest of Fat White Family’s discography so far. In particular, the production and performances are outstanding. Lias’ signature seedy delivery is understated and all the better for it, and the vocal harmonies throughout the album are on point. The chorus of ‘I Believe In Something Better’ is joyous down to the almost-spiritual organ chords, and melancholic nuclear war ballad ‘Kim’s Sunsets’ is sweetly, satisfyingly melodic for a band that has tended to shun any notion of melody until recently. Closer ‘Bobby’s Boyfriend’ is unsettling, but not in the usual Fat Whites way – opting for a creeping sense of vague discomfort, rather than the full-on freak-out the band would have gone for three years ago.
Serfs Up! is
simply far more dynamic than anything the band has released so far, with so
many new shades and flavours. This makes for a welcome change when the Fat
Whites’ discography until now has been very much monotonous – that is not to
say boring, but two albums full of relentless squat-punk makes for tiring
listening. The Fat White Family are finally worth all their early hype, and
although it’s been a long time coming, the pay-off is worth it. (9/10) (Louis Marlow)
Listen to Serfs Up! by Fat White Family here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: Adam Brennan, Adam Harmer, Fat White Family, Lias Saoudi, Louis Marlow, Nathan Saoudi, review, Sam Toms, Saul Adamczewski, Serfs Up!
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