Fat White Family Deliver The Goods in Berlin

A review of Fat White Family's January gig in Berlin

Thrust into the limelight last year, Fat White Family have been touring their 2013 debut album ‘Champagne Holocaust’ around the Europe and the U.S.  After cancelling a European tour in late 2014, the band finally made an appearance in Berlin in January.

Preconceptions are going to ruin the experience of Fat White Family, whose attempts at rock ‘n’ roll myth making does neither the band nor their music any favours.  Apparently, they’re ‘the closest thing to a genuine punk band today‘, which probably turns more people off the band than it does attract them.  Bogged down with promoting themselves live (which has gained them a formidable live reputation), the band haven’t had the opportunity to prove their musical worth yet.  Their forthcoming Sean Lennon-produced album should settle matters once and for all.

Chaos, I concluded en route to Berlin’s Kantine am Berghain venue, was what attracted me most to the band’s live show.  The kind of unpredictable and exciting mess of noise FWF are reputed to produce live is increasingly a rare commodity. Having witnessed a typically chaotic show by The Fall the weekend before, I was more sure than ever that it is this sense of wild abandon that draws me towards a band like Fat White Family.

Before the main act, fellow Brits The Voyeurs had to be dealt with.  They’d failed to win me over in the days before the show – the small matter of decent tunes and coherent songwriting standing in between me and my connection to the band.  Sadly they have nothing to add as live performers and have evidently mistaken aloof charisma (a la Lou Reed) with shy and reserved posturing.  It appears that they are no even fully invested in the messy songs that make up their set and save for ‘Rhubarb Rhubard’, there are no discernible hooks in their music.

Standing amongst the considerable crowd gathered to watch The Voyeurs, I felt frustrated that such a poor band were acting as ambassadors of British music.  Many better bands could have been paired with Fat White Family on this tour of Europe – I suppose The Voyeur’s record label were able offer the most for this privilege.

Fat White Family have two great songs, and their decision to deploy both of these immediately upon taking the stage is either bold or risky.  ‘Auto Neutron‘ enters amidst a blur of organ noise whilst ‘Is It Raining In Your Mouth‘ swings-slams along nicely toward the song’s excellent coda.  So far, so good.  Faced with the rest of set of less-good tunes, it was great to see the likes of ‘I Am Mark E Smith‘ and ‘Touch The Leather‘ rock and roll with such force on the stage.

Live, FWF are less the chaotic punk band I was promised and more of an amped-up rockabilly-indie band.  Dare I say it, their set was even quite professional.  The band aren’t sloppy and their all clearly quite good musicians.  Saul Adamczewski, arguably responsible for the band’s jangling sound, sounded g whilst topless singer Lias Saoudi kept the crowd entertained with his Iggy Pop / David Yow (of The Jesus Lizard) style delivery.  Leaving the music to do the talking was definitely the right thing to do and Fat White Family lived up to expectation.  An unsuccessful stab at a country song aside, the set flew by and it wasn’t long before set closer ‘Bomb Disneyland‘ propelled us all into the Berlin night.  The follow up to ‘Champagne Holocaust’ will emerge at some point this year – let’s hope it’s a good one.

An earlier piece on the band can be read here.

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