Around winter break of last year, I was perusing through The Quietus’ “Best of 2013” list when I glanced upon an album whose cover bore a hammer-and-sickle wielding bovine, fully exposed in the crotch, with the words “The Fat White Family” marked across the top. My initial thoughts, in order, went something like: “man, this album cover is ugly as sin,” “but Fat White Family is probably the best band name I’ve heard all year,” and “holy shit, this sounds absolutely filthy.”
We’re currently living in an era where the garage-rock revival of the early 2000s is starting to bleed out, giving way to a new generation of bands who seem to think that the key to making ass-blasting rock music lies in how simple the songs are. The White Stripes were probably one of the most seminal bands in terms of popularizing the concept of the “garage.” But most of the Stripes descendants don’t seem to realize what a unique, specific combination of sounds the White Stripes truly had going on.
Champagne Holocaust, the debut album from the Fat White Family, sounds like a belligerent London bar fight gone horribly right. The sextet has an undeniable swagger that nonetheless seems to constantly be doing battle with its own violence.
Songs like “Without Consent” ride a constant boogie while demonic guitar shrieks cascade in the background. “Is It Raining In Your Mouth?” might actually be a strong Brit-pop single if it didn’t eventually dissolve into maddening, repeated chants of “five sweaty fingers on my dashboard!” “Borderline” would be a new campfire classic if any of the vocalists could sing even remotely in tune. The album just reeks of obscenity and chaos, yet in a way that still manages to rein the group in to deliver powerful guitar jams.
The album is one of the most effective garage rock releases to come out in some time. Unfortunately, it made little impact on its initial release — probably in part due to the group’s financial limitations, which have prevented them from embarking on full U.S. tours in the past.
But now the Fat White Family has received an enormous compliment by being signed by indie powerhouse Fat Possum Records, who are re-releasing the U.K. band’s debut throughout the U.S. on Aug. 19. With this news comes the announcement of a national tour, which will bring the group to Denver’s own Lost Lake on October 28. Whether the album will catch on this time around is hard to say, but whatever happens, fans of the gnarlier side of rock music should give Fat White Family’s raucous howl a listen.
Sam Goldner’s Sound Evidence appears every Friday in the Colorado Daily.