Line-up changes, side projects and a side-line in throwing shade at Idles – it’s been quite the quiet time for Fat White Family since 2016’s ‘Songs For Our Mothers’ was released. Having put their jaunts with Sean Lennon (The Moolandingz and Insecure Men) aside, Lias Kaci Saoudi and Saul Adamczewski have returned to the bosom of Fat White Family for their third outing, ‘Serfs Up’. And as you’d expect for men with such voracious appetites, the menu is varied; from the gravedigger disco of Feet to the ‘Minder’ theme tune jazz of Vagina Dentata – teeth downstairs, Lorena Bobbitt would surely approve – Fat White Family remain unperturbed by musical convention.
For better or worse, Fat White Family sound however they damn well please, adding and subtracting elements liberally from track to track; a hint of Grand Master Flash here, a sprig of N64 synth there, ‘Serfs Up’ is an anything goes deluge of sound filtered through the sardonic playground of Lias Kaci Saoudi’s mind.
Oh Sebastian brings The Beach Boys on a day trip to a coal mine with the help of an impressive string arrangement, while the granular mischief of Baxter Dury makes for a natural bedfellow on the glam-sodden Tastes Good with the Money, an enjoyable romp to be sure even if it feels a tad conventional beside the other assembled experiments. The accompanying video directed by Roisin Murphy is also a treat, paying homage to surrealist comedy such as Monthy Python.
As the record progresses there’s clear links to ‘13’ era Blur and Gorillaz – even if there are no hip-hop guest verses, Fat White Family clearly on a similar path as Albarn, whether they’ll want to admit it or not. Regardless, this certainly isn’t Selfie Music. On Kim’s Sunsets they tongue-in-cheek lament the North Korean dictator’s inability to push the big red button after investing so much of his time and energy into building an arsenal of mass destruction.
Fat White Family’s modus operandi has always been the shock and awe of offence, but on ‘Serfs Up’ they have reached a mellower vortex. Whether this is simply a hillside picnic on a journey to fiercer places remains to be seen, but for now at least, they have chosen to try a subtler approach, and for the most part it succeeds.
Fat White Family play The Button Factory, Dublin on May 8th. Tickets €23.50.