If you believe the band’s PR machine, Fat White Family are the “shot in the arm that independent rock has been ailing after.”
They’ve certainly gained plenty of notoriety since emerging from a South London squat back in 2012, but will they live up to their own hype at the O2 Institute, on the first night of an eleven date UK tour?
They do a pretty good job, for the first half an hour at least. An onslaught of songs in quick succession at the start of the set builds an early sense of momentum. Lead singer, Lias Saoudi, prowls around, topless, predatory, his hand occasionally creeping down his trousers. He’s a great front man, obnoxious to the point of almost being disgusting; commanding total attention from the excitable audience.
A particular crowd favourite is ‘Satisfied’, the second track of the band’s most recent album, Songs for Our Mothers. Typical of the album as a whole, ‘Satisfied’ has somewhat crass lyrics, at one point comparing a blowjob to life in a concentration camp. The words are lost live though, and you’re left with a sleazy foot stomper with a killer chorus. It’s probably for the best.
Mid-set the pace slows a little and the momentum peters out; the best thing about lumbering, dull ‘Goodbye Goebbels’ is its name, whilst ‘Wild American Prairie’ is a straightforward, sluggish blues dirge.
This points my main problem with Fat White Family – their lyrics are interesting, their politics are interesting, their wild antics are interesting, but the music itself isn’t really all that interesting. They write some good riffs and some catchy songs but it can often descend into arguable Fall and Clash rip offs.
There are exceptions. Songs like ‘Whitest Boy on the Beach’, the opening track from their latest album, suggest that Fat White Family could develop into a more musically interesting proposition. The guitar line grooves along, with the breathy vocals gradually submerged by melodic synths before re-emerging with greater force; it’s almost like disco music.
So, Fat White Family – a shot in the arm for independent music? Yes, probably, they really are a spectacle of a live band. But are they independent music’s new lifeblood? That remains to be seen.
For more on Fat White Family, visit https://fatwhitefamily.bandcamp.com
For more from the O2 Institute, visit http://o2institutebirmingham.co.uk/
For more events from SJM Concerts, visit http://www.gigsandtours.com/