Fat White Family Serfs Up! Domino
For some, Fat White Family are a much-needed breath of toxic air. They’re pinned as a band of revolution; a wilfully controversial spanner in the works of all things slick and soft. The last true bastion of rebellious punk, they claim. But then again, for some, Ricky Gervais is a seer. In many ways, Fat White Family share thematic DNA with that one-time comedy genius turned transphobic waffler. A rabble of controversy-first creatives who, much like Gervais’ recent After Life series, veer far too freely into lethargic old tropes, forgetting the actual art in their dogged avoidance of anything resembling a ‘norm’. Fat White Family are all mouth and – often literally – no trousers.
Serfs Up!, Fat White Family’s third full-length and debut for Domino, has been billed as something of an about-turn. Freed from self-described addiction battles and self-destruction, the band reportedly reformed, wisened to the crassness of their previous records, which made caricatures out of Holocaust survivors, self-released on a label titled Without Consent. It takes just minutes for the cleaned-up act to melt away.
Feet, the opener to Serfs Up!, starts pleasantly enough. Atop a sludgy groove, they showcase their lack of abrasion in textured, almost-danceable style, as frontman Lias Saoudi mumbles away like a drunk conspiracy theorist. Before long, the track drops away and Saoudi clears his throat, sneering of a “sand n***** storm” with a clarity as yet unheard – a needlessly on-the-nose reference to a time the band were rightfully criticised for hurling that same slur around on Twitter. Their defence at the time was that it was ‘parody’. Their intention on Feet is less clear.
The record does little to shake that lingering feeling of discomfort. The languid aesthetic continues: gloomy and ghostly, but lacking any real bite, as the discordant I Believe In Something Better offers none of the transparency its title would suggest, and Vagina Dentata comes off like Tranquility Base-era Arctic Monkeys, were it helmed by a witless horror movie villain.
In the standout sounds of Tastes Good With the Money’s gothic choir, and the carnivale electronics of Fringe Runner, there are hints at a desire to create something more rich and baroque in instrumentation. But Fat White Family are so devoid of charisma that each plodding number instead sinks quickly into tedium. By the time closer Bobby’s Boyfriend rears its head, Serfs Up! feels like wading through knee-high, coughed-up mud.
In a recent So Young Magazine interview, Fat White Family spoke freely of the dedication to controversy that has, to-date, been their calling card. “It’s quite hard to be offensive today,” stated Saoudi, as wilfully ignorant to the non-stop bigotry and bile polluting the world around him as you might expect. “We intend to stay the course and be as belligerently offensive as possible,” he added. On the evidence of Serfs Up!, their modus operandi seems to be causing offence through sheer banality. A trudging, charmless effort, Fat White Family’s most offensive act might just be the utter dullness their every move inspires.