Part shadowy rock and roll band, part social outcast soapbox, Fat White Family aim to rattle the shellshocked masses with their second LP Songs for Our Mothers.
It is difficult to speak of Brixton, London’s Fat White Family without addressing their repugnant media reputation or controversial lyrical themes. It’s clear that The Family is on a mission to make your stomach turn. But isn’t that all a part of the allure? Their debut album, Champagne Holocaust, was released in April 2013, and since then the tribe of unapologetic trouble starters have been called every nasty name under the sun: dope fiends, pedophiles, fascists, nazi sympathizers, nihilists, mentally-retarded……the list goes on. Drawing on the jagged art-punk of bands like The Fall, Country Teasers and The Cramps, the record was full of tendentious references to sexual deprivation and other unpleasantries. However unlikable the band seems to portray themselves, it is worth noting that the sounds backing these dysfunctional pranksters are quite tasty. On their latest record, howling smacked-out guitars are joined by concrete jungle hammering beats to produce a combative post-modern symphony that forces you to confront your own demons.
“Who cares about the artistic potential of singing about good people and good situations?”
“I think what I learned from our debut Champagne Holocaust is that if you were going to listen to all of your online critics it would pretty much be impossible to do anything other than toe the line completely and make the most conservative music imaginable. We’ve already been called fascists. We’ve already been called Stalinists…. So what do we actually care? And besides, these are the best questions to ask and the best scenarios to explore. Who cares about the artistic potential of singing about good people and good situations?” guitarist Saul Adamczewski revealed (via Without Consent).
It is no easy feat to rile (and confuse) the media in the manner that FWF has managed to achieve. The group’s brazen immersion into uncomfortable/queasy territory has led them to be accused of being attention seeking and self-serving maniacs. For instance, on”Goodbye Goebels”off of Songs for Our Mothers the boys imagine what an ode from Hitler to his right-had man might sound like. The slow-strummer finds singer Lias Saoudi eerily reminiscing, “Your courage was sacred…..Here’s to the 4th Reich, I give you a Jew”. Comparably sour are the themes on “Hits Hits Hits”, partially inspired by the abusive tale of Ike and Tina Turner, and the working relationship between the band itself. Is there a “more tasteful” way to explore the ghastly human tendencies on this planet? Perhaps.
“Whitest Boy on the Beach” takes a more humorous turn, recalling The Family’s busking trip to Spain a few years back. The line “Baby can you tell me how the Universe began? It started with a whimper and ended with a bang”, references T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men. It would seem that Fat White Family operates at times as a Greek satyr play, poking the dead remnants of artistic culture with a stick and hoping to see signs of life. In an homage to Throbbing Gristle (who certainly inspired the bleak electric thumps on the track), the band recreated the photo for 20 Jazz Funk Greats as the single’s cover.
In another bizzare moment, “Satisfied” sees imaginary fellatio from famed literary figure and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi. At some point in this journey into the most seemingly unsavory thoughts conceivable, you have to ask yourself, “What the fuck is actually going on? What is the intention behind this? Is this more of a fleeting thought than an actual provocative statement?” The track was co-produced by Sean Lennon, who also collaborates with Lias and Saul with The Moonlandingz. While musically comparable to the sleazy gutter glam of Iggy Pop, the menacing garage sludge is a quicksand-like endeavor, pulling the listener into the depths of sexual vertigo and fear. Saoudi explained to Loud and Quiet, “You can use people like historical characters, popular culture characters, icons, whatever it is – they are just different colours you use to paint your picture. I consider everything to be fair game. Absolutely everything, which is why I’ll put Primo Levi in a song about getting head because I just don’t see why I should be held. As an artist I have license and I couldn’t care less if people get upset about it. I’m quite certain I’m not a racist.”
Many have accused Fat White Family of having a purely gimmicky shtick. However, “Tinfoil Deathstar” proves the band’s insistence on shoving the disillusioned broken dreams of the Western world into the public consciousness. Apparently smoking heroin has become more popular in recent years, due to the “tightwad situation” of the London youth. Beginning with a warm swell of strings, the tune quickly escalates into a terror of organs that would easily fit into the Trainspotting soundtrack. “At the end of the song, the ghost of David Clapson is standing at the window asking to be let into the party. He was a former soldier, a veteran, who had his benefits cut after he missed one appointment and they found him dead in his apartment. He had diabetes and couldn’t afford to keep his fridge on and keep his insulin cool, which was the thing that killed him. He was found next to a stack of CVs… it’s fucking disgusting”, Lias explained in the press release.
Indeed, there is a sect of the music community who wish nothing more than for Fat White Family to disappear from the music scene (and possibly the planet)……forever. One argument is that “it’s all been done before”. To be fair, it’s quite obvious that the band isn’t trying to satisfy the bland tastes of the hoards of basic indie fans now crawling across any chances of true innovation. Are they recalling the great horrors of the world for their own benefit and gain? Can music be created objectively while still being frank about social issues? The only thing lacking perhaps for the group is any hint of a future. This is lounge music for psychedelic crackbabies who are waiting, hoping for doomsday to come and release them from the ties that bind. Fat White Family is one version of the knife needed to cut through the cord.