Fat White Family - Serfs Up! - - Soundblab

Fat White Family - Serfs Up!

by Kevin Orton Rating:9 Release Date:2019-04-19
The Fat White Family - Serfs Up!
The Fat White Family - Serfs Up!

It’s been a few years since we heard from them but the surf’s up and Fat White Family are hitting the waves. Whether you like it or not. They may be crass and unwashed but you could never accuse them of being inarticulate. What’s more, their latest displays a musical sophistication they seemed hell-bent to bury in times past.

The striking disco dance grooves, horns and strings of ‘Feet’ go to show that they’re left their lo-fi, DIY pretensions behind. But not their demented, irreverent sense of humor. ‘Feet’ hits the dance floor and take no prisoners with puerile wit and sleazy subversion. They’ve always been better players than their willfully sloppy approach suggested and that’s pretty damn evident here.

If you were thinking ‘Feet’ an anomaly in terms of full production, ‘I Believe In Something Better’ is certain to cast that notion aside. With its synths and vocal effects, its less Stones meets Captain Beefheart than mid 80’s Depeche Mode. Lyrically, the concerns appear to be a bit loftier than their prior output might suggest. Fans of their more willfully adolescent stuff might be a bit off put by the fact that underneath the satire, lies a song with a message.

‘Vagina Dentata’ find these pranksters getting their Ween on. Truly a thumb up the bum number. Musically, it’s as warped as anything they’ve cut. Sort of Beach Boys meets Abba on Quaaludes. All boozy horns, bleary-eyed guitars and creepy, whispered Marc Bolanesque vocals. ‘Kim’s Sunsets’ continues in this vein. Kim’s mind may be on vacation, but Fat White Family are working overtime. Funky guitar riffs are thrown on top off electro synths that are sickly sweet. The overall effect is a gloriously demented malaise. It’s the sound of a tropical sun setting, leaving a greasy stain on the horizon.

The sinister ‘Fringe Runner’ takes up the baton next and hits the hills. All fat grooves and hand claps, it should slowly dawn on the listener at this point, this album is one great big dance party. Pure 80’s Electro Funk. Granted, with a gleefully sordid edge. Never fear, they’re still out to disrupt and dismay between the lines.

If the album title suggests an ode to the Beach Boys, the gorgeous and haunting, ‘Oh Sebastian’ is the closest things get to an all-out tribute. “It's going to get ugly and it's going to get tight, I got a feeling in my gut and my feeling ain’t right.” Despite such foreboding sentiments, “Oh Sebastian don’t you cry.” Yes, it’s quite nearly a ballad. Which is a pretty perverse move for these guys. What’s more, it’s one of the best things this merry band of agitators has ever cut.

‘Tastes Good With Money’ begins with Gregorian style chants before launching into a sinister beat. If the Fat Whites were trying to cram their fingers down your throat in the past, here they just want you to dance. And dance ye shall, to their infectious grooves and nasty musings. Admittedly, this one flirts a bit too closely with classic T- Rex, then unexpectedly slips into creepy narration mode. Specifically, of the Serge Gainsbourg Ballad of Melody Nelson variety.  An inventive mixture of influences, and completely irresistible. Another album stand-out. Fantastic stuff.

‘Rock Fishies’ is pure 70’s lounge. All sea and sun Gainsbourg with once again, some very Marc Bolan style vocals. A beautiful, eerie number that also owes a lot to early Roxy Music and pre-ambient Eno. The cherry on top is a fantastic melody. Yes, I said melody. A gloriously cinematic cut that ends in an explosion. Apologies for the spoiler alert.

‘When I Leave’ follows and pokes at the synths with one finger. None of which accounts for the doomy surf guitars driving things home. Again, an alluring mix of styles. Proving that this album just keeps getting better as it goes along. The deeper we wade into the surf, the more this band reveals its wit and musicianship.

The album ends with ‘Bobby’s Boyfriend’, who despite being a prostitute, isn’t necessarily bad company. Lias Kaci Saoudi’s vocals once more channeling Marc Bolan as he does throughout this album. It’s a spooky, unexpectedly laid-back adieu. Ending with a nod off into the ether, as opposed to tying things up neatly with a ribbon and bow. Which works, because all you want to do afterwards, is hit the “play” button again.

Without a doubt, Fat White Family have not only defied expectations with Serfs Up!  but topped themselves. Anyone who has written these guys off as modern answer to Ween, better think again. There are some brains behind this fun. The kind of record that gives you more surprises with repeated listens. Which is how it should be.

Check out our list of the 'Fat White Extended Family' here.

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