Album Reviews

Fat White Family – Forgiveness Is Yours

(Domino) UK release date: 26 April 2024

Even when they don’t quite hit the mark, they remain a curiously compelling act who play by their own rules – chaos remains their lifeblood, for good and for bad

Fat White Family - Forgiveness Is Yours The usual sense of chaos reigns supreme around Fat White Family. In fact, it’s a wonder that this fourth album has even seen the light of day. Following five years after their last record, Serf’s Up, the last few years have seen founder member Saul Adamczevswki leave the band, while brothers Lias and Nathan Saoudi have fallen out and apparently not spoken to each other in months.

That’s not even counting the various side-projects that Lias Saoudi is involved in – solo work, bands like Decius and The Moonlandingz, and another career as a writer – and the usual run ins with the law and dabbling in drugs that have all become part of the Fat White Family legend. Yet, against the odds, Forgiveness Is Yours has seen the light of day.

Apparently, Adamczevski acrimoniously left the band after failing to convince them to release “repellent drone music”. If, however, you thought that meant the Fat White Family had suddenly become accessible, think again. Everything Is Forgiven is a wild ride – it opens with a poem, there’s strange pastoral folk-rock, woozy psychedelia, and the centrepiece of the album is Saoudi’s spoken word account of his older brother undergoing a circumcision aged five, without an anaesthetic. Obviously, that’s the lead single.

So, it’s all over the place, as you may expect. And, as usual with Fat White Family, some of it works brilliantly, while other moments are less successful. There seems to be a move away from the scuzzy rock which they’ve previously dealt with. John Lennon begins with what sounds like the introduction to Kim Wilde‘s Kids In America before taking a left-turn with folky flutes, before building up into a cacophony of jazzy instrumentation. You won’t hum along, but there’s something strangely compelling about it.

Bullet Of Dignity almost struts into view with an addictively funky bassline, and Saoudi spitting out lines such as “You say you’re just 31, what’s that in cannibal years?”, while Visions Of Pain brings to mind Leonard Cohen‘s later records, a delightfully weird slice of chamber-pop, full of screaming saxophones and whispered backing vocals.

Nothing quite prepares you for Today You Become Man though. Saoudi breathlessly narrates this story of infant circumcision in Algeria, in the role of his older brother. “When you look down at your shaft, you don’t see the same thing I see, brother” runs the opening line, and if that doesn’t grab the attention, then nothing will. Skittering percussion and free-form instrumentation burbles in the background as the story progresses. It’s a brilliant example of Saodui’s talent as a writer, conjuring up images of the “same beige shirt and slacks every Algerian bloke above the age of 25 wears” and walking past “a pile of old fridges and disused mattresses”. By the time he’s furiously intoning “bite down on this, ok”, it’s guaranteed to fuel nightmares.

There are times it doesn’t work so well though. Religion For One has some startling lyrics – “roll out them shekels, babe, spit out that cum” and “Your sympathy’s driest month, just a byproduct of my resentment” being just two examples, but the song itself becomes a bit of a dirge. The same goes for Polygamy Is Only For The Chief, which seems to collapse under the weight of its own mayhem, just falling over the line that divides free-form improvisation and discordant noise. However, they can also knock out an urgent slice of synth-pop like Work (apparently a tribute to Rocky IV), which could well be the best thing they’ve ever done.

Even when it doesn’t quite hit the mark, they still sound like no other band out there. They remain a curiously compelling act to listen to, who play by thier own rules – chaos remains their lifeblood, for good and for bad.

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More on Fat White Family
Fat White Family – Forgiveness Is Yours
Fat White Family @ Ritz, Manchester
Fat White Family – Serfs Up!
Fat White Family – Songs For Our Mothers
Fat White Family @ Electric Ballroom, London