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Serfs Up! is Fat White Family’s third album and their first for new label Domino. It marks the most gratifying and unexpected creative volte face in recent musical history.
Having released their second album, Songs For Our Mothers in January 2016, core-members Lias and Nathan Saoudi relocated to Sheffield and set about writing the album. Joined by co-conspirator Saul Adamczewski and recorded at their own Champzone studios in the Attercliffe area of the city, Serfs Up! was finished in late autumn 2018 with the help of long-time collaborator, Liam D. May and features a guest appearance from Baxter Dury on Tastes Good With The Money.
Serfs Up! is a lush and masterful work, lascivious and personal. Tropical, sympathetic and monumental. It invites the listener in rather than repel them through wilful abrasion. Fat White Family have broken previous default patterns of behaviour, and as such their third album heralds a new day dawning.
Gregorian chants, jackboot glam beats, string flourishes, sophisticated and lush cocktail exotica, electro funk and the twin spirits of Alan Vega and Afrika Bambaataa punctuate the record at various junctures, while the dramatic production of Feet is as immaculately-rendered as ‘Hounds of Love’-era Kate Bush. The dirt is still there of course, but scrape it away and you’ll find a purring engine, gleaming chrome.
Echoing within the arrangements throughout are traces of blissed-out 60s Tropicalia, Velvets/Bowie sleaze-making and star-gazing, 80s digital dancehall, David Axelrod-style easy listening, joyous Pet Shop Boys synth crescendos, acid house, post-PIL dub, metropolitan murder ballads, doom-disco and mouth-gurning, slow-mo psychedelia so by the time it comes to a close only a fool would deny that Serfs Up! is something very special. No longer is unadulterated music malevolence Fat White Family’s stock in trade; this is cultivated music for the head, the heart. For tomorrow’s unborn children.
Where once they soundtracked a grubby Britain of vape shops, Fray Bentos dinners and blackened tin-foil, a crepuscular comedown realm stalked by Shipman, Goebbels and Mark E. Smith, Fat White Family 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.
Martin says: Fat White Family’s turbulent and well documented Peckham squat/smack/crack background has found unfiltered expression in their anarchic output, exacting gleeful slaughter on common decency and sacred cows alike. Both artwork and lyrics are used as iconoclastic dirty bombs; butchered Nazi and Communist symbolism, the IRA, dead pigs, big cocks, Harold Shipman and your mum have been deployed with a complete lack of due reverence. Decamping to Sheffield, kicking heroin and recent diversions into more melodic side projects might have led them into calmer and broader sonic waters, taking in glam, corrupted disco and cod reggae, but they are still viciously irreverent. Amongst the carnage, Kim Jong Un’s nuclear potential is saluted in the Balearic balm of “Kim’s Sunsets”, “Tastes Good With The Money” makes bitter reference to wealthy sightseers of Grenfell and the dark disco rampage of “Feet” to the human cost of war in Syria.
It ought to have been a shambles, but it actually works just beautifully.
2. I Believe In Something Better
3. Vagina Dentata
4. Kim’s Sunsets
5. Fringe Runner
6. Oh Sebastian
7. Tastes Good With The Money
8. Rock Fishes
9. When I Leave
10. Bobby’s Boyfriend