Published on March 10th, 2014 | by Mike Conlon0
The Fat White Family – Champagne Holocaust
Before listening to an album I’ve always enjoyed examining its cover and trying to anticipate what it’ll sound like. The sleeve of The Fat White Family’s ‘Champagne Holocaust’ presented a real challenge. What musical stylings do a naked pigman wielding a hammer and sickle suggest? Certainly nothing pleasant. The Fat White Family is an East London band that, according to guitarist Saul Adamczewski was, “born out of wanting to be in a country band and from listening to a lot of Charles Manson.” It consists of six of the most decrepit, malnourished looking creatures you’ve ever seen. They used to live together in a basement squat and they now live together above a pub. In lifestyle and sound, these four are utterly dialed in to the transgressive heart of rock n’ roll.
‘Champagne Holocaust’ kicks off with ‘Auto Neutron,’ a psych-tinged jam that wouldn’t sound out of place on a playlist of 60s garage rock classics — its wah guitar, psychedelic vocals, and floating baselines flow through one another with a nightmarish result. Next up is ‘Is It Raining in Your Mouth?,’ a jangly track with a pronounced oral fixation. Though the subject matter of the song renders it unfit for consumption in the presence of decent society, its light-hearted, poppy energy just might allow it to fly under a prude’s radar.
For The Fat White Family the morally repugnant is generally worthy of exploration. ‘Cream of the Young’ is a self-explanatory and thoroughly disturbing jam. The band has defended the song in multiple interviews, pointing out a strong satiric undercurrent running through the lyrics. According to frontman Lias Saudi, ‘Cream of the Young’ is a “a parody of the ridiculousness of the WHOLE rock n’ roll thing. It’s not supposed to be serious or autobiographical.” Amen to that — who’d want to listen to a band comprised of pedophiles? Musically and otherwise, Fat White Family makes make a mockery of the put-on of seediness inherent in contemporary rock. On a lighter note, the ‘Cream of the Young’ music video prominently features a dead octopus and a battered cow lung.
‘Champagne Holocaust’s’ lurid subject matter makes it easy to overlook its musical dexterity. Yes, this record is a gnarled beast that has risen up from the gutter, but it’s one hell of a melodious beast as well — every song is compellingly listenable. The band dexterously conveys its squalor through the sounds of the American underground. ‘Auto Neutron’ sounds like a Cramps track on a stronger than usual dose of Quaaludes. ‘Wild American Prairie’ is Suicide’s aural cousin from across the pond, and songs like ‘Special Ape’ and ‘Heaven on Earth’ indicate that Adamczewski worships at the shrine of the almighty Riff.
There’s something vaguely political about ‘Champagne Holocaust.’ And the Fat Whites are no strangers to political acts. When Margaret Thatcher died the band celebrated in the streets with a banner that proclaimed, ‘The Witch is Dead.’ (This landed them coverage in The Guardian, which has elsewhere described them as “members of an emergent underclass of literate but degenerate squatters.”) But more than anything else, the music of The Fat White Family deals in the politics of the personal. Like Country Teasers, the band blows up and undermines twisted viewpoints by embodying the mental space of those who hold these views. And it’s probably just as well that the band isn’t concerned with putting forth a coherent political philosophy, because videos like this might compromise their ability to effectively spread any meaningful social agenda.
NME described ‘Champagne Holocaust’ as an album that’s “constantly on the brink of collapsing under the weight of its own politics, poverty, and vicious intent.” That’s entirely true. What’s incredible is that the album maintains this precarious sense of stasis from start to finish. The music is filthy, unstable, and downright compelling. You could be forgiven for wanting to take a shower after a listening to the album. But how often does a record really make you want to do anything?