Fat White Family, Sheffield Plug, gig review: A truly bracing performance

The dual guitars of Saul Adamczewski and Adam J Harmer are a consistent thrill to behold

Daniel Dylan Wray
Tuesday 23 February 2016 13:08
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Fat White Family
Fat White Family

As Fat White Family trundle out, lead singer Lias Saudi prowls the stage in a shabby, oversized suit, the sort someone might have to borrow if they had a court appearance and were in need of one, with a can of beer locked firmly in each hand, his eyes malevolently tracking the audience. The band get into place and open with “Tinfoil Deathstar” a stark, chugging track that’s an ode to oblivion and a forewarning of destruction, coated in the juxtaposing warm sonic glow and scary bleakness of one of its primary subjects: heroin.

Grubby, edgy, problematic and downright offensive can, and are, all words used to describe the sound, lyrics and general demeanour of the Fat White Family but so can joyous, euphoric, melodic and apoplectic. When the band pop, when they lock into place and unleash all that they have at their disposal, they truly are scorching, room shatteringly, exhilaratingly brilliant. A great deal of this is due to their ability to build songs and then explode them at seemingly the push of a button, such as on “Auto Neutron” which is constructed upon a layer of gentle melodic vocals and a lyrical refrain until the band detonate with Saudi writhing and screaming on the floor as guitars screech with fireball fury behind him, drums clattering like a terrifying thunderstorm whilst the organ blasts and twists with an almost demonic wildness.

Latest single “Whitest Boy on the Beach” is stripped of its Throbbing Gristle-like disco gleam and turned into a grubbier, rockier and more chaotic version which when in the breakdown as Saudi screams made-up German, they recall Slovenia’s Laibach. The dual guitars of Saul Adamczewski (back in the band and looking well after a recent stint in rehab) and Adam J Harmer are a consistent thrill to behold, not only does their interlocking playing weave between the rhythmically harmonious and puking discordant vehemence but the tones they are getting from their instruments are as rich, shimmering and groovy as they are sleazy, muggy and anxious - a sort of disgusting bliss.

Known for their stage antics and occasional nudity, the group are pretty contained this evening, trousers stay firmly on and except for a bit of crowd surfing the overwhelming activity comes from the power of the music itself.

“I Am Mark E. Smith” creeps and cries like The Idiot-era Iggy Pop, “Cream of the Young” sounds as deprived, grotty and intoxicating as ever, whilst newer material bodes just as well, “Satisfied” ignites into a thunderous Cramps-like assault whilst “We Must Learn to Rise” feels truly apocalyptic in its gargantuan scope, pulsing and flashing like a shower of lightning. The slowed down pace of the Hitler death ballad “Goodbye Goebels” acts as the calm before the storm that is the following “Touch the Leather” which once more sees the band explode, fusing underpinning and beguiling melody with brutal, cacophonic rage. A truly bracing performance.

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