Seven years into a career defined by collapsing masculinity, Celtic mysticism, provocation, eroticism, wanton violence, joy, radical empathy, narcissism, hog-like indulgence, personality defects and a fondness for both extreme left and right-wing aesthetics – and some of the best musical performances the UK has ever witnessed – South London-spawned Fat White Family return, clean(ish) and serene(ish).
“Serfs Up!” could be called a career-defining moment, were the Fat Whites – always a drug band with a rock problem – to ever have considered this a career. It’s not. It’s so much more. It’s struggle. It’s survival. Potential, finally, has been realised, the odds have been defied, and the Fat White Family’s greatness can no longer be denied.
At the close of 2016 celebrating their largest headline show at the Brixton Academy after four years of touring, FWF were running on fumes. They were just about held together by singer Lias Saoudi who had led, Rommel-like, from day one. Despite hinting at a more streamlined direction on the motoric death disco of “Whitest Boy On The Beach” (chosen by Danny Boyle to feature on ‘T2 Trainspotting’), their second album “Songs For Our Mothers” was the product of psychically-incinerated, part-feral men, an undernourished musical morass described by the band at the time as “going to the extremes.”
With the smoke now cleared and the battlefield-free of casualties, FWF now re-emerge triumphant. The results on “Serfs Up!” offer something utterly sensual. It’s a lush and masterful work, lascivious and personal. Tropical, sympathetic and grandiose. It invites the listener in rather than repel them through willful abrasion. FWF have broken previous default patterns of behavior, and as such their third album heralds a new day dawning for a new world.
Where once they soundtracked a grubby Britain of vape shops, defrosted dinners and blackened tin-foil, FWF now inhabit another cosmos entirely. “Serfs Up!” is the product of a band of outlaws reborn. Few but themselves could have forecast it: Fat White Family survived. Fat White Family got wise. Fat White Family got sophisticated.