A wasted frontman, a dig at Nottingham duo Sleaford Mods, a song for Joseph Goebbels, and half the band abandoning ship half an hour early – it’s all in a day’s work for the notorious, provocative, delightfully irreverent Fat White Family.
On the road promoting their second full-length release, Songs For Our Mothers, the London-based, six-piece, post-punk outfit arrived in Nottingham on Sunday night for only the second night of their eleven date tour. With a ramshackle performance to match their aesthetics and, seemingly, their general approach to their work as a band, the evening at Rescue Rooms encapsulated exactly why the Fat Whites have cultivated such a dedicated following – you never quite know what you’re in for.
For the hour that the whole group are on stage and performing in their twisted version of rapturous harmony, this is a group that are entrancing to behold in the live arena. Stalking on stage and spraying the front rows of the crowd with the last dregs of his beer, frontman Lias Saoudi, leering about in an oversized suit jacket which disappears after the first track ‘Tinfoil Deathstar’ is out the way, eyes up the room with a vaguely threatening attitude.
“For the hour that the whole group are on stage and performing in their twisted version of rapturous harmony, this is a group that are entrancing to behold in the live arena”
The scope and dynamism of this band’s work – which can seem a little two-dimensional at times on the record – is unmissable on the night. ‘Auto-Neutron’ provides a thunderous, soaring climax, and as Lias descends into frenetic squalling over the screeching guitar parts, pounding rhythm section, and blaring synth, the appeal of this group, and all their brash impudence, is clear.
They rattle through favourites from their 2013 debut LP Champagne Holocaust, and it’s clear that these songs are well exercised by now – ‘Cream of the Young’, ‘Is It Raining In Your Mouth?’, and ‘Wild American Prairie’ elicit the churning, heaving crowds to bellow the well-known chorus lines.
Their two singles prior to Songs For Our Mothers are brought out as well – the plodding march of their ode to The Fall ‘I Am Mark E. Smith’ is enjoyed as much their riotous performance of ‘Touch The Leather’.
Although their latest release has attracted the least favourable critical reviews of the bunch, many tracks from the album are rejuvenated when performed live – for example, the jittering, bawling energy of ‘Whitest Boy On The Beach’ crashes over the room as the track grows in its vehemence layer on layer. Equally, the second track on the album becomes a stomping, ominous spectacle, as the thumping beat matched with the repeated lines of “Satisfied, Satisfied, I’m so easily satisfied” becomes hypnotic and unnerving all at once. In a good way.
The eerie bars of ‘Goodbye Goebbels’, in which guitarist Saul Adamczewski drones into the mic a point-of-view reminiscence of the good times Hitler and Goebbels shared, surprisingly provides a welcome down-point in the rampant energy of the evening. But this is when things got confusing.
“In these times tinged with a perpetual sense of impending doom, a soundtrack provided by this bunch of reprobates is not to be undervalued”
Having wrestled a bottle of wine from Lias, keyboardist Nathan – Lias’ little brother – seemed to fail to keep it from the self-destructive frontman, who disappeared from view shortly after. Apparently, then, due to a flying beer, the keyboard malfunctioned – and before we knew what was happening, half the band just left the stage. True, it’s unlikely that the Fat Whites have ninety minutes worth of live material. Nonetheless, it was clear something was up.
With a guitarist at the drum kit, and Lias strumming inanely at one chord on repeat, rumbling incoherently into a microphone, it wasn’t long before six or seven gig-goers tried their luck and climbed up onto the stage with the remaining members of the band. After smashing a couple of cymbals with Harmer, a bouncer eventually reached the stage and the revellers were forced to evacuate.
Certainly, this confusion and slight disappointment didn’t quite manage to overwhelm how impressive the Fat Whites had been for the majority of the evening. The atmosphere at any one of their live sets is, arguably, unparalleled – in these times tinged with a perpetual sense of impending doom, a soundtrack provided by this bunch of reprobates is not to be undervalued. Let’s just hope their shit remains at least partially together to sing us out to the end.
James is currently listening to ‘Made of Concrete’ by Kagoule