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Fat White Family fulfil their deranged musical vision on Serfs Up!

When South London’s Fat White Family were last in Australia, they were touring their second full-length album Songs For Our Mothers. The tour was significant for a number of reasons; they were infamously ejected from Splendour In The Grass, and they were performing without Saul Adamczewski—one of the band’s founding members.

Shortly before the tour commenced, Adamczewski was admitted into rehab for heroin addiction, leaving the group’s future in serious question. Having always been plagued by in-fighting and addiction issues, it appeared to many that Songs For Our Mothers would be the Fat White Family’s final album… a somewhat disappointing conclusion to a much-hyped career.

On their third full-length album Serfs Up!, South London’s Fat White Family have fully realised their demented musical ambitions. God help us all.

When the band emerged in 2013 with Champagne Holocaust, they had already built quite a reputation for themselves. Their live show was touted early on as an experience like no other; an apocalypse of self-destructive madness. Bizarre stories of donkeys, nudity, and pig heads floated around any mention of their name.

The album itself lived up to the reputation of their live show. The band delivered a slab of psychobilly-tinged insanity, complete with a gloriously obscene album cover—a naked pig bearing a hammer and sickle.

And so, the stage was set for their follow-up, Songs For Our Mothers. However, despite a hit lead single in Whitest Boy On The Beach, their second record was largely bested by an abuse of hard-drugs. The musical output was more like a sludge. It felt as though the ambition, the madness, and the scope and been ripped away.

While there was a general sense of disappointment around the record, frontman Lias Saoudi and his younger brother Nathan never lost hope in the band’s potential.

I genuinely believed that if we could get the band away from smack for a long enough period, we could do something that was mature and dexterous,” Lias says of the band’s third album Serfs Up!

That’s the reason I wanted to make it. I didn’t think we’d done our best yet. That was really disappointing after all that work. I couldn’t live with that.

Lias and Nathan started work on the album, without their longtime writing partner Adamczewski. For the first time in the band’s history, Nathan started writing for the band, bringing completely new elements to the music. Then, after working together on Adamczewski’s Insecure Men album, Lias and Saul reunited. Lias spearheaded a new era for the group, suggesting a full-band pilgrimage to the Northern city of Sheffield. It was here that Serfs Up! was born.

Having kicked their heroin addictions, Serfs Up! is a true return to form. Sonically, the new album is significantly different to anything they’ve released before, but the boldness of their new direction evokes an excitement that hasn’t been present since their debut.

Serfs Up!, at its core, is a pop record—a demented, surrealist pop record. The album’s opening track Feet is a warped disco number, driven by an ominous Gregorian chant. Vagina Dentata is a crooning slice of eerie chamber pop, while Kim’s Sunsets ropes elements of reggae and dub into its deranged vision.

Having teetered on the edge of implosion at various points throughout their career, Fat White Family no longer have time for half-assed efforts. Serfs Up! is a bold step forward for the group—it’s the sound of a band who have finally realised the full potential of their unhinged musical ambitions.

 

Serfs Up! is out now. 

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April 19, 2019