Fat White Family: Serfs Up (Domino) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, January 21st, 2021  

Fat White Family

Serfs Up


May 09, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Staggering out of a Brixton blur of warehouse parties and cheap drugs, London's Fat White Family appeared to be a bunch of sloppy urchins with a penchant for Birthday Party rip-offs; songs like 2014's "Touch the Leather" and "I Am Mark E Smith" setting out a vaguely shambolic stall of bleak but perhaps humorous, crawling, creeping punk rock. With a tinge of working class rebellion they were an art school Sleaford Mods; a version of The Libertines that offered less in the way of camaraderie, more in the way of sneering nihilism.

It was fun. Degeneracy, as performance, has always been entertaining. On Serfs Up the band apparently shifted from cocaine and heroin to Ketamine and weed and, while correlation does not imply causation, this is a record less obtuse than previous offerings, though equally placed on a stage of ugliness. While they may not be masters in the vein of Jenny Saville or Bukowski at this kind of thing, they are skilled at presenting squalor as art, black-eyed boredom as social commentary, a sort of performative porn.

Single and opener "Feet" has a feel of Momus to it, extracting electronica and strict beats from a whirl of strings and spoken word that evokes at least the sound if not the skill of Leonard Cohen's '80s output. It also repeats the use of a racial slur the band already "toyed" with back in 2017 for some reasonand those not knowing certain band members' heritage may find this profoundly uncomfortableor worse, take it as a permissive nod.

As their logo and persona insist, they're a band that it would be easy to accuse of being, well, tedious edge-lords. Yet, despite their unending need for attention and controversy they do actually have some good songs tooslow jam "Vagina Dentata" is simultaneously sensual and silly; "Tastes Good With the Money," featuring Baxter Dury, a sickly, low-slung glam rock stomp with a massive hook and an air of lung-clogging filth. It's great.

Closing song "Bobby's Boyfriend" has a strung-out softness that's only marred by the fuck-me stupidity/hilarity of lines like "Bobby's boyfriend is a prostitute/And so is mine," while "Kim's Sunsets" rolls along hazily and pleasingly, like much of the record.

"Oh Sebastian" is actually beautiful, recalling great, lysergic bands like The Grubby Mitts or even The Flaming Lips.

The band's adherence to their carefully structured narrative can relegate their actual music to sideshow status, and it's easy to get caught up in the silliness of it all, but despite their artful presentation, they do have moments of musical greatness here (particularly that bizarre synth tab sequence in "Fringe Runner") and, hey, what's wrong with a little naughty fun once in a while? (www.fatwhitefamilymusic.com)

Author rating: 6.5/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10


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