Published Apr 16, 2019Either in spite of, or because of, their legendary dysfunction, Fat White Family have an ability like no other group to straddle cynicism and the perverse, yet they make it sound like existing in our time is anything other than pure, ridiculous fun. For their third album Serfs Up! the band rides a sardonic wave way out, past any shallow virtue signals.
Fat White Family's audacious charisma remains intact on the new record, but the great leap that sets it apart from earlier albums is the fidelity. The harsh guitar and blunt Casiotone lo-fi of previous albums is replaced with a louche world of sleek synthesizers, string flourishes, Gregorian chants and sultry guitars. Standout track "Tastes Good With the Money" would fit in with Berlin-era Iggy Pop, and lead single "Feet" is a svelte disco number dosed with distemper.
Serfs Up! is not a record for anyone lacking a thick top layer of skin. Calling the lyrics "edgy" would be like calling Jean Genet a children's book author. The subject matter is profoundly dark, but the songs somehow come across as lithe and inviting. "Vagina Dentata," for example, is a breezy ditty that wouldn't be out of place as a soundtrack to flipping through a magazine at the beach.
With a feral reputation and bevy of celebrity fans (who likely wish they shared the same freedom of expression that the band has) there should be no lingering doubts that Fat White Family are the antidote to anodyne pop. Rather than bleakly ruminating on puritan culture and hyper-capitalism, on Serfs Up! the band glide through disorder, dancing on the ashes of dull decency with "deep and terrible glee." (Domino)