The great band tradition of the 20th century feels all but lost in the era of instant streaming and the hyper commodification of culture and art. These traditions, established in the 50s and 60s, solidified the album and band, as a complete piece of art. With onlookers becoming enthralled in the love/hate relationships, feuds, experimental phases, drugs, obsessiveness, cults of personalities and historic performances. In recent times, no band has stepped into these shoes as well as Fat White Family.
Their debut, “Champagne Holocaust” gave rise to their brand of slime filled, garage art-rock dissonance. Their second, “Songs for our mothers” was a critically acclaimed, blistering work of psychedelia meets New Wave. “Serfs Up!” already declared the album of the year for lots of pundits, confirms that South London’s favourite sons are leagues above their contemporaries.
In the time since the previous record, lead singer Lias and his adversarial partner Saul, have been busy with exciting side projects. Lias teamed up with the Eccentronic Research Council to form “The Moonlandingz” – A sort of camp, glam rock meets 80s synth-wave outfit with tonnes of flare and a attitude. Saul, worked on “Insecure Men” an elevator music infused lounge pop record which took the anticipated psychedelia in new directions, with hints of William Onyeabor and Roy Ayers.
Serfs Up! Has seen the two key figures return with the sounds of their impressive moonlighting. Songs like “I believe in something better” with its Bossa Nova rhythms triumphant synths and “Kim’s Sunset” with its danceable bass groove, sickly funk lead and Kim Jong-Un inspired lyrics take the best bits of Insecure Men and The Moonlandingz and throw them into the Fat White Family broth. Nathan, brother of Lias and keyboard player, has taken a more forward role, leaving his mark across the production and songwriting with the first single from the record, epic disco banger “Feet” being largely of his making.
The nasty side of the Fat White Family is still there of course. “Fridge Runner” makes sure of that with its harsh fuzzy guitars, sub bass and clashing string stabs, putting listeners on edge, only to be soothed back into a lull by “Oh Sebastian” a warm, delicate, string driven ballad.
The albums pinnacle for me, comes from their 3rd single, “When I leave” which acts as a summary for everything Fat White Family. Gentle keyboards are confronted by haunting lead guitars, bending just to the brink of dissonance before bouncing back, Lias’s word play and ethereal vocal quality, and the bands cult-like choral harmonies.
Overall, Serfs Up! Has proven that through the turmoil and strife the band has endured during their hiatus, they still stand alone, a beacon of hope in a quagmire of toothless commodity punk.
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