We went to see the new Sheffield residents, Fat White Family, road test their evolution as they escape the grip of London-bound addiction with an hour-long performance at The Lexington to kick off their 2019.
In their recent press release revealing upcoming album Serf’s Up, Domino Records announced that Fat White Family had undertaken a ‘slick transformation’ of sorts; relocating from London’s hubbub to the glamourous smokestack that is Sheffield, the band moved with the goal of kicking their unsavoury habits. With new environs comes new inspiration, especially if your previous fountain of inspiration was the toil of addiction.
Ratcheting up anticipation with an achingly drawn-out soundcheck, Fat Whites returned, clutching a bottle of tequila, at least suggesting they hadn’t quite managed to eradicate every vice of theirs. Heralded as the last of a dying breed of rock ‘n’ roll band, one who openly flaunts their excesses, morbid fascinations, and penchant for shock value, their personal issues are brazenly entangled into the band’s authentic narrative. So much so, that it could be attested to their immense popularity equally as much as their tunes.
“With new environs comes new inspiration, especially if your previous fountain of inspiration was the toil of addiction.”
Kicking off with ‘Whitest Boy on the Beach’ and ‘I Am Mark E Smith’, frontman Lias Saoudi almost immediately removed his shirt, vibing off the crowd’s boisterous response to their faves. His trousers remained above his crotch, however. Maybe they had been sanitised?
New single ‘Feet’ segued nicely into new material; far removed from their trademark sloppy bravado, it’s dingy-disco aesthetic is reminiscent of Iggy Pop’s Bowie-produced album ‘The Idiot’. Written throughout echoed experiences of migrating to kick a dangerous habit, the chorus directly nods to the carpet of addiction being pulled from beneath them at any given time; “Feet, don’t fail me now.” What they once glorified, they now approached tentatively.
From then on, the intimate crowd (with the exception of the few die-hards front-and-centre) seemed fairly bewildered due to some tracks’ perceived ‘seriousness’. Tickets sold-out in a few minutes and though Fat Whites’ new, less drug-addled guise was made clear beforehand, the new material just didn’t quite click. The sweatiest of moshes were saved for ye olde reliables like ‘Cream Of The Young’ and ‘Is It Raining In Your Mouth?’ but all in all it was pretty restrained, and not quite the rambunctious, triumphant return we envisaged.
“As they slither from a south-London squat to the backstreet dance floors, let’s hope they find their feet.”
Other projects (The Moonlandingz, Insecure Men) and substance-based cessations had occupied their attentions since 2016’s Songs For Our Mothers, so two intimate gigs for die-hards at The Lexington was prime opportunity for core members Saoudi, Saul Adamczewski, and Adam J Harmer to wade into uncharted territory together. By no means dreary or tedious, the hour-long set was merely evidence that the band were having teething problems merging the new identity with what was expected of them.
Breakthrough track ‘Touch The Leather’ bookended their performance and still remains their most prized anthem, but it’s Fat Whites’ past personas that proved to be the proverbial albatross around the neck for a band in search of new pastures. As they slither from a south-London squat to the backstreet dance floors, let’s hope they find their feet.