I have to say I've always been slightly wary about Fat White Family and their affiliate projects. I've never been one for heroin chic for starters, going all the way back to Sid Vicious, Johnny Thunders and the Eighties version of Nick Cave and there's always been a kind of attention seeking desperation about the way the band conduct themselves to my mind. Plus I just didn't like the records for the most part. Though I'm still no great fan of the band's public persona, my impression of their music changed when I started listening to their new album Serf's Up. It's a truly monumental record. A very good one too.
This is what comes of having great record collections and applying the nerve to fully immerse yourself in them as the starting point for the creative process. Fat White Family have done so and come up with a soundtrack with genuine swagger, attempting to take on the greats. Serf's Up is a massively daring and ambitious album, and very much a 2019 sounding one. Funky and widescreen, it's great to see a British band trying to sound quite so vast again.
So what does it sound like? It sounds a bit like the album cover and recent promotional shots of the band stripped to the waist looking like a Russian feudal chain gang might suggest. Like a cross between Dostoevsky, League of Gentlemen, The Human League, Pulp, Glam Rock, Disco, Rap and Funk and Spaghetti Western Soundtracks. Oh and Nineteen Forties Hollywood Black and White Horror movies. It's a record that just demands to be listened through to at one sitting. and then listened to again and again.
Really, this shouldn't work. There are just so many ludicrously diverse ingredients stirred into the mix here that it's some kind of minor miracle that they cohere to the astonishing degree that they do. Part of the reason for this might be the band's relocation from their beloved London to the altogether grittier Sheffield for the duration of Serf's Up recording . Somehow taking a fresh look at their modus operandi has helped them become the force that they've always wanted but never really threatened to be previously. Good luck to them.