Apparently Fat White Family spends a lot of time in a pub in Brixton.
Trying to shock is so common that you would have thought people would get bored. But there are degrees of ability, and you’ve got to admire the ones who manage find a line to cross. It’s a yin/yang thing – the freer we pretend we are, the harder it is to break the rules. Obviously a band who decides a good name is Fat White Family is not afraid of a little controversy. Still, could just be a bit of fun. And they’re bringing it from the UK for a short tour soon, if you’re ready.
The album, Champagne Holocaust, starts off well enough. Auto Neutron is a psychedelic drift of intense guitar and washed out vocals. It’s just softening you up for the hit of Is It Raining in Your Mouth. While you’re listening to the strumming of the guitar, some of the grainy, t shirt over the head, beer soaked vocals seep through – “I was born to have it/You were born to take it/Baby is it raining in your mouth.” It repeats, in case you weren’t listening the first time, or maybe you want to memorize it as a nice bit of sentiment to whisper in someone’s ear. Did he just sing “that’s no excuse to treat my purple fury like it’s the big black abyss”? Yeah, maybe he did.
A holocaust isn’t a supernova, and you’re now realizing what you’ve let yourself in for. There’s a tiny hint of Oasis in the attitude if nothing else, but the next aural onslaught wipes it from your mind. Listening to the album is a little like falling over face first on a sticky floor in a club. The carpet smells of old beer, you’re not sure why it’s hard to move your arm, and your leg is stuck to something. But someone pulls you up, passes you a cold drink and a lit cigarette, and you know it’s a night you’ll remember some of. And make up the rest.
Who Shot Lee Oswald has droning fuzzy vocals over what sounds like a dime store banjo with one string. It’s recorded with enough distortion, as in, has that got enough distortion on it, no, add more. It’s like a junior school cassette player turned all the way up. Definitely maybe.
Without Consent is just what you’re thinking. Weird half breathed high vocals mask most of the words, but not all. They had to change the lyrics to get a live version played on the radio. It sounds like they found a recording studio, then tied up the engineer.
Cream of the Young comes up, and after the last few lyrical gems, there’s a bit of concern about even pressing play on this one. Bass. Loud. Is that hiss in the background? Fuzzy guitar and fuzzy vocals. It’s the TV turned up loud in a cheap motel one afternoon, with a six pack next to you. But the western you’re watching suddenly becomes insane and distorted. Riding the range on a very weird trip. And then there’s Wild American Prairie. That rhythm. Corrupting. Borderline with “if my mind was clean I’d be fine.” Those are animal noises. And everyone has to listen to a song called Bomb Disneyland, at least once, right?
This album is so intentionally lo fi that you have to wonder if the next big thing is going to be the cassette player. But it’s been a long while since a trip through an album fought with all the reasons to say no. It’s weird as hell, incredibly offensive, and yet…there’s something to it.