Political, satirical and downright perverse, the south Londoners’ debut is finally released on CD
South London’s Fat White Family are a mass of contradictions. The six members have impeccable taste in music, but have also released some of 2013’s most tasteless songs. They say they’re satirising rock’n’roll clichés, but the anger at the heart of the band makes them conform to cliché themselves, including once smashing their instruments during a bad gig in Camden. They appear to be the quintessential outsider band, but they’re conscious of their place in the music industry (guitarist Saul Adamczewski was previously frontman of major label signings The Metros) and their intention to cause chaos within it. They’re the best new band in London. But, as someone wrote under the YouTube clip of them destroying their instruments, they’re also “a bunch of wankers”.
In April, their Bandcamp-released debut album ‘Champagne Holocaust’ leaked into existence with all the grace of pus oozing from an infected wound, and now it’s getting an official CD release. According to their Facebook page, they’ve already moved on from it; they’re recording a follow-up and they’re broke and starving. They recently sent out an SOS for a Chinese takeaway to be sent to a Brixton pub that doubles as their HQ. In April, when Margaret Thatcher died, they hung a banner that said ‘The Witch Is Dead’ outside it and made the papers. “There is no other war than class war,” they said in an interview at the time, and were recently photographed at Karl Marx’s grave.
Musically, ‘Champagne Holocaust’ is a fantastic racket – a decrepit, squatty take on vintage American bands like The Cramps and The Gun Club. You also hear the abrasive directness of post-punk groups like The Fall and The Birthday Party and the band claim affection for both Charles Manson’s deranged recordings and the songs Serge Gainsbourg made with Jane Birkin. It’s an intoxicating stew – depraved and black-fingered, the aural equivalent of how Peter Doherty looks. They’re also capable of being very funny. In the droney, smacked-out ‘Who Shot Lee Oswald?’, singer Lias Saudi poses the question, then runs through a series of increasingly preposterous counter questions: “Was it the FBI? Was it the CIA? Was it the BBC? Was it The Velvet Underground? Was it Bobby Davro?”
Elsewhere, their humour is crass and intentionally stigmatising. ‘Is It Raining In Your Mouth?’ is a repulsive song about oral sex. ‘Cream Of The Young’ – musically, their best track – speaks of desiring a “15-year-old tongue”. Parody, they say, and an attempt to confront a taboo in a manner that’s self-consciously literary. ‘Champagne Holocaust’ often sounds like a sonic interpretation of a William Burroughs or Marquis De Sade novel, a David Cronenberg film or Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover – wilfully artful, but vile and disturbing. Not always, though. And elsewhere, the shock is how anaesthetised they can sound – on ‘Garden Of The Numb’ and opener ‘Auto Neuron’ they sound completely blank.
Fat White Family say they named their album ‘Champagne Holocaust’ after listening to Oasis, and because “it was supposed to be about the music industry”. The record is undoubtedly an antidote to the creeping conservatism in rock, typified by that photo of Haim with David Cameron. But it’s also music that’s constantly on the brink of collapsing under the weight of its own politics, poverty and vicious intent.