Music Reviews

Album Review: Fat White Family – Songs For Our Mothers

If the Fat White Family are anything like The Fall (and the comparison is prevalent everywhere you look on the internet) then band members will be discarded and replaced like spent cartridges and their album count will rise precipitously as the years roll on. The Fat Whites have already achieved the former with their line-up having changed multiple times in the last few years, most likely due to the dysfunctional depravity the band are infamous for and the specific requirement to be a “social retard or a fucking cripple”, as Saul once elegantly put it. 

Songs For Our Mothers is the follow up to 2013’s Champagne Holocaust, which was a superb debut, widely regarded as a turning point in 21st century Rock and Roll as it brought back the unhinged wickedness that the scene had lacked for years. The Fat White Family are not wild originals but they’ve cultivated an original sound by clearly knowing their shit when it comes to music. They’ve become critically successful because they gleefully piss all over the commercial indie detritus that the NME loves so dearly and by revelling in offending the weak-minded.

A good follow up to Champagne Holocaust was always going to be difficult but, brilliantly, it’s been done. Songs For Our Mothers is marginally better produced than the band’s previous releases, but thankfully the raggedness of the guitars and the discordance of the electric organ is still present. Where their debut was forty-odd minutes of Lias Saoudi screeching like an impaled ocelot, he actually sings on this record – more or less for the duration.

Album opener ‘Whitest Boy On The Beach’ is one of the strongest tracks on the LP: it shimmers and pulsates in a whirl of guitar-based groove that builds and builds, brimming with potential unpleasantness. ‘Satisfied’ continues the sing-a-long ethos, equally as gyrating as ‘Whitest Boy…’, and with Adamczewski’s distinctive spiky guitar work shining through. By ‘Love Is The Crack’ everything has slowed to a sludgy grimness as Saoudi likens his fandom to “a herd of hopeless cripples climbing around my climbing frame”. There’s a compliment in there somewhere.

‘Duce’ and ‘We Must Learn To Rise’ have been unfairly dismissed by some reviews due to their wall of noise and length (both clocking in at around seven minutes) but with several listens they begin to grow on you.  They are both subtly intricate and heavily layered. ‘We Must Learn To Rise’ features militaristic trumpet from Meatraffle’s ‘Zsa Zsa Sapien’ and is reminiscent of ‘I Am Joseph Stalin’, the B-Side to ‘I Am Mark E Smith’.

‘Tinfoil Deathstar’ is centred around a driving bass line and a squealing organ; the arpeggios in this song are things of beauty, a conformation that the Fat Whites are highly competent musicians, having obviously grown a lot musically over the number of years they’ve been playing together.

“Saoudi likens his fandom to “a herd of hopeless cripples climbing around my climbing frame”. There’s a compliment in there somewhere.”

‘Goodbye Goebbels’ leaves us with an imagined farewell from Hitler to Goebbels in the bunker just before they die.  This is perhaps the Fat Whites’ first sincere love song and, regardless of the songs’ antagonists, is truly quite moving. The plinking guitar guides the listener through the final few minutes of Nazism and the instrumentation at the close of ‘Goodbye Goebbels’ is swooning and malignly pretty.

It’s been said of this album that the lyrical content is neither shocking nor needed. Perhaps it’s not quite so shocking as 1970s era Throbbing Gristle or as sustained as Ben Waller’s subversive wit.  But as Saoudi said in a recent interview he has “artistic licence” to sing about getting a blowy from someone who looks like Primo Levi or Harold Shipman stealing the jewels from an unfortunate patient because subversive music is relevant and needed more than ever in this age of Radio 1’s Live Lounge and The 1975.  Our souls need saving and the Fat White Family are the men for the job.

Anna Hand

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Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham's IMPACT Magazine.
One Comment
  • Nobby
    24 February 2016 at 17:28
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    Agreed. A welcome antidote to the bland music that dominates the ‘indie’ scene today.

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