3 Feb 2016

Fat White Family / Songs For Our Mothers (album review)

3 years on from their debut record Champagne Holocaust, sleazy narcotic shamen of Brixton Fat White Family have returned to the fore of British music with their second album Songs For Our Mothers. With the manifesto of 'offend the right people', over 10 songs this album projects so much grimy sleaze, Nazi allusions and serial killer sympathy unto the world that you will quite literally need a shower after listening to it. But you know; this is a compliment. After all, I think this band are probably the closest thing that there is to a 'voice of a generation' in 21st century Britain. Everything is fucked up. The Fat White Family are fucked up. These are some fucked up songs for fucked up times.

The songwriting duo of Lias and Saul are at their best here; you know, like a squatter Lennon and McCartney, but darker than they've ever been before. Where the filthiest lyric on their debut was a reference to a '15 year old tongue', that's nothing compared to what's on here - some of the lyrics are as follows; "St (Harold) Shipman decides to exit with pride" and "she looked like Primo Levi sucking the marrow from a bone". You expected darkness, but this is so very black. But you know, the subject matter of Nazis and lethal dose-trigger-happy doctors isn't prevalent because the Fat Whites are those things; they're here to shock, they're here to hold up a mirror to society and make you think; 'wow, everything's really quite fucked up, isn't it?'

There are numerous highlights on this album, but a personal high point is astral opium-pop number Tinfoil Deathstar. With a low down, dark psychedelic groove, it revolves around a plodding motorik bassline and some whizzing synth sounds. "Is that David Clapson," asks Lias Saoudi: "wincing through the glass?" A reference that might have passed you by, but it's a nod to an ex-soldier found dead next to a pile of CVs after the Tory government slashed his benefits for missing a single meeting. It's subject matter that Lias read about, and was so disgusted by that it couldn't go without further exploration. Like I say, things are fucked up. The Fat White Family more than just acknowledge that things are fucked up. They're the most culturally and socially relevant band in the country today, and nothing can convince me otherwise.

Also notable is Deathstar's sonic twin; lead single Whitest Boy On The Beach, a tetchy krautrock influence number that you can sing and dance along to like it's nobody's business. Yeah, this band can tackle the dark inner sanctums of the human psychee, but they can also string together an absolutely phenomenal pop song. See also: Raining In Your Mouth, Touch the Leather.

The Fat Whites throughout the album are jarring, dark and disconcerting, a point that you, me and everybody else has picked up on. Duce and We Must Learn To Rise are two 7 minute noise tracks that plod along in a way that makes them sound like the perfect soundtrack to sacrifice a human being to. When we all sacrifice Osbourne to the powers that be, We Must Learn To Rise will be the light ditty plaguing the airwaves like a communist-cum-occultist call to arms.

But by the same token, the songs that sound lighthearted are so dark that it doesn't even spare a second thought. On Hits Hits Hits, the band take on a sound that parodies slacker-popstar Mac DeMarco - who Lias and Saul said they would 'join ISIS if' he didn't 'withdraw from music and the public eye immediately' - and utilises it in a way that is both dreamy and almost poignant. First listen: 'ah, this is a nice number, good to have a little respite boys.' Third or fourth listen: 'hang on a second, wait, WAIT. I don't think I can deal with this boys.'

As well as Ike and Tina Turner's abusive relationship, ex-soldiers murdered by the government and Nazi generals, the main lyrical theme of this record is the strained relationship of the core duo. Lias and Saul have an odd relationship, and it seemingly puts a bit of a strain on the band. Goodbye Goebbels is a troubled love song sang from the point of view of Hitler spending his last hours in the bunker with the song's titular character. It's supposed to be a jarring, scarring document of Lias and Saul's relationship, with the context's female characters removed to make it more like a fascist version of Withnail & I. And then Hits Hits Hits follows a similar vein, Lias and Saul being personified as Tina and Ike respectively. These are some troubled artists, but the troubled art they're creating is both heartfelt and musically fantastic.

I think it's really difficult to come out and overtly say that one band is the most important there is. I also think it's pointless to do so. And stupid. But while we're living in a country where poverty's on the rise, the poor are being priced out of the capital while politicians increasingly represent the few and the richest 1% reinforce their position, while people are literally starving to death and increasingly dying on the streets, the Fat White Family are the perfect fucked up soundtrack to the fucked up times in which we live. Maybe you can pledge some false importance in your DIIV or Last Shadow Puppets album as you sit far from the squalor facing the majority of Britain, but the Fat Whites are one politically band that perfectly encapsulate dark times in a way that is caustic, crucial and completely musically brilliant.


(written by calum cashin)