Fat White Family are a band reborn. ‘Serfs Up!’ is the richest, most accomplished music they’ve ever written.
This is an about turn from the south London misanthropes’ second album that was rotten with dissonance and references to the Third Reich. ‘Songs For Our Mothers’ (2016) was an abject, anti-pop record that lacked the excitement of their 2013 psychobilly debut ‘Champagne Holocaust’. In addition, heroin addiction, infighting, and the temporary departure of the band’s co-conspirator Saul Adamczewski for some time threatened the group’s future.
Fast-forward three years and repulsion still reins, but this time it pulls you in. Lead single ‘Feet’ is the group’s statement of intent: a sprawling, decaying disco track that puts up a united front. Indeed, ‘Serfs Up’ is the first record to which the three core members – brothers Lias and Nathan Saoudi, and Adamczewski – have contributed equally. The album’s eclectic, refreshing sound is testament to healing, to time spent apart, and to channelling creativity elsewhere (on side projects The Moonlandingz and Insecure Men) in the interim.
With heroin habits kicked, ‘Serfs Up’ is the sound of a band that’s downgraded to mellower substances for superior results. Rolling, industrial dub track ‘I Believe In Something Better’ may note “the misery of progress” but it’s contrasted by hope in the throbbing, organ whirls that open with the chorus’ title lyric. ‘Kim’s Sunsets’ – an earworm song about the North Korean leader presiding over his missiles – picks up the record’s recurring dubby pulses and chucks in Fat Whites’ deranged harmonies for good measure.
The album’s second single, ‘Tastes Good With The Money’, evolves from Gregorian plainchant to a stonking, Marc Bolan-indebted glam rock number about the excesses of wealth. The record’s wild centrepiece, ‘Front Runner’, jolts with Altern-8 horror rave synths and a meaty, ‘90s ostinato bass hook. Elsewhere, there are the noxious noir sentiments of early Fat Whites material – see ‘When I Leave’, a menacing take on ‘The Lady With The Braid’, Dory Previn’s song about begging for sex – for those craving the band’s old provocations and polemics.
‘Serfs Up!’ does taper towards the end, dragging somewhat with ‘Oh Sebastian’ and ‘Rock Fishes’, but it’s a victorious return from a ragtag bunch finally realising its ambitions.