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Listen: Fat White Family

With ‘Tinfoil Deathstar’, the Fat Whites finally give us the video they’ve been promising to make since they released their debut in 2013. Lias, with half his skin melted off (napalm burns?), dances in front of projections of military parades, the Vietnam War, and other indecorous imagery. Little boys pick the scabs off his face and play trumpets. Maybe they eat the scabs afterwards. It’s all a bit nasty.
‘Whitest Boy On The Beach’ is the other videoed song on Songs For Our Mothers and big brother to ‘Tinfoil Deathstar’. But where the Whitest Boy vid pairs cramped, dark underground shots with wide open spaces, giving us chance to breathe a bit, ‘Tinfoil Deathstar’ doesn’t let up. From the moment the drum n’ bass hits we get a procession of repulsive images, often multiple simultaneous repulsive images, which inevitably lose all sense of actual repulsiveness pretty quickly (though credit where credit’s due, the children picking scabs off Lias’s face is a new low). Most of the scenes have a red and green filter, as though you’re using 3D glasses for a 2D video, and it’s uniformly gloomy: the only bright light comes from explosions and a big burning Yen/Yuan symbol. It’s certainly not a pleasure to watch this video.

On the new album, the Fat Whites’ trademark wonkiness (and it is a trademark now, sorry Country Teasers) is strapped on to rigid synthesised drumbeats, which seem to be the only thing keeping the songs travelling in the same direction. As a whole, it’s less fun than Champagne Holocaust, which truly had no direction: it was a collection of filthy brilliance and half-assed rubbish in equal measure, and it was great. Though there are moments on Songs For Our Mothers that would fit in fine on the debut – see poor Primo Levi’s verse in ‘Satisfied’ – the new album is darker. Case in point, the lyrics for ‘Tinfoil Deathstar’ combine heroin abuse and the tragic story of David Clapson, a diabetic man who, after his benefits were stopped, was unable to power the fridge where he kept his insulin at the right temperature. He was found dead next to a pile of CVs.
In the context of the rest of the album, the lyrics to ‘Tinfoil Deathstar’ represent one of the best things about the Fat Whites. At some point, after the Primo Levi blowjob simile, perhaps, or after we see children picking napalm scabs off Lias’ face, we stop caring. Like most shock art, we become desensitised pretty quickly. But the Clapson situation, a situation that the band have publicly mourned and condemned, throws everything into disorder. How can we use the label ‘shock art’, that easy and dismissive description, when we know that they genuinely care about some of the stuff they sing about?
Is it all genuine? Probably not. But that’s the fun of it, for lack of a better word. It makes us question where the line is, or whether there is a line at all, or whether we are actually awful people for trying to draw a line between these horrific things in the first place.

 

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Fat White Family headline Brixton o2 Academy on September 17th. More info here. Support comes from The Black Lips. The band announce the show with this message:

 “It is with joyous remorse we would like to announce a very special performance at Brixton Academy September 17th, for sweet mother Brixton is on the road to well dressed irrelevance, just another open casket in a city bent on deathly formalities. Nostalgia is no substitute for community and dialogue; that being said, if we cannot prove a good example, let us be the sad reminder. WE SHALL ALL BE CLEANSED.” – Fat White Family

We spoke to Lias, frontman of the Fat White Family in Issue Nine. You can read this interview here.