Listening to ‘Bomb Disneyland’ allowed me to appreciate the authenticity of visiting Disneyland Paris twenty years ago. Its pugnacious and distressed delivery is revelatory of the latent contempt held within Disneyland’s sanitised bourgeois aesthetic. Now I vividly recall the power of its distractions; the expertise in utilising a palette of block colours that vacillated from garish to subdued warmth to perfectly fit their context, the sheer size and multitude of the kitsch instalments, and the excitement of experiencing pure hedonism in believing the promise that being there meant that you deserved to be. All of this suppressed other memories that were, at the time, logged but discounted as minor nuisances; namely the abundance of grotesquely brainwashed tourists clad in identikit themed wares of you know what, the lurking stench of hydrogenated fat, the eyes of Disney employees carrying a defeated listlessness, that only comes with working a crap job surrounded by vacuously smug people working feverously to pretend they’re having a good time, the body odour of some poor fucker inhabiting a life-size Daffy duck costume on a hot day, and the punitive cost of everything.
The insanity reached its pinnacle as I lent €20 to someone who I barely knew from another scout troop we were travelling with, just so he could buy (and carry) a portly five foot tall Mickey Mouse cuddly toy that cost €90. Or perhaps, as one of Thatcher’s children who had yet to renounce and denounce the faith, I just wanted to see someone succumb to buying something ridiculously excessive.
Most of all I remember getting lost (physically, not metaphorically…well, maybe that too) among various themed parks of sweltering aspiration, and thinking: where am I? In that split second I found salience in agnosticism: this is shite, it’s boring, it’s crowded and I’m tired. Fuck this shit.
If I’d thought of it I would’ve bombed Disneyland at that moment. Mind you, in my defence, I was only twelve, and unless you’re the product of a distressed upbringing, at that age even mental antagonisms tend to be slanted towards finding benign and sanguine solutions. However, once adulthood arrives, in fact, becoming a teenager in most cases, cynicism in regarding most issues of contention becomes pervasive.
Or does it? That’s the question “Champagne Holocaust” and the perceived otherness of Fat White Family’s drug fuelled behaviour pose. In the context of today what is true cynicism? More to the point what is artistic and musical cynicism? Are the masses that descend on Disneyworld cynical, or just delusional? Are the cynical attracted to cynical mediums? Clearly those last two questions are rhetorical. Of course they fucking are.
In retaliation those contented by the mediocrity that constitutes much of mainstream culture might well claim that Fat White Family represent, if they’ve ever considered such a concept, a misanthropically extreme phenotype of bohemian vagrancy. The Family’s complete absence of vanity, when the self-esteem of many is sustained on vanity’s many forms, would no doubt seem intentional to them. After all, who in their right mind wouldn’t care if they were relatively skint, essentially lived day to day, had missing or chipped teeth, unkempt hair, bad skin, wore cheap torn clothing, or just plain went without any clothes at all? I mean, where’s the fucking aspiration lads? They could easily take the lewdness in the subject matter of their songs and videos, the album cover’s nod to paganism, and the band’s confrontational name as being cynical through contrarianism. Good. Point made.
Such accusations of disingenuousness might carry some weight if there was no weight behind the band’s ideas or their ability to execute them. Not so, as they belong to sub-division of musical culture where the central tenet of what music should represent is respected, namely that ideas and the passion with which they’re performed matter more than anything. Everything else is peripheral.
But it would be prudent not to place the fatties on a pedestal, there are many musicians out there who respect this code, and succeed through abiding by it, without the need for delving into excesses or peculiar antics that can easily foment an accompanying mythology. Still there’s no harm using the medium in conjunction with your own cultivated milieu to induce course sonics that marry with a wickedly puerile sense of humour. It’s doubly effective when attacking cynicism, the myopia, hypocrisies and the flat out bad taste that characterises it, especially as Champagne Holocaust’s minimalist (and inexpensive) construct makes the counter-point that it doesn’t need to be this way.
Speaking of wickedly puerile, a cacophony of barbs immediately catches the ear in ‘Garden Of The Numb’. It conveys the self loathing scorn of its narrator ‘You make every atom in me want to cry’, this, along with its numbing drone of superficially simplistic sloppy guitar play, emboldens his caricatured documentation of base Thatcheristic selfishness, ‘You’ll sell your mother’s cunt to open doors’. The song is centred on vindictiveness, of seeing deserved recompense meted out to the self righteousness of the successful, ‘I’m fulfilled, because eventually time will kill/The very space you occupy right there at the top of the hill’. Whether ‘you’ is to be taken as the singular or plural, or this account is real or a collage of fictitious scenarios used to form a wider allegory, is unclear. That the song signs off with the lament of ‘I’m lost in the garden of the numb’, suggests the plural, and that the targets are, at the very least, a shower of talentless dickheaded hacks who’ll probably prevail.
However, ‘Auto Neutron’ openly approaches the self-aggrandisement of the band’s acceptance of their superiority in a sea of shite, and the accompanying anger ‘we’ll burn your shit down’, that such superiority is unlikely to receive the level of appreciation it deserves. This might bother you for a moment, but you won’t care a bit when its organ embellishes an engrossing subdued mantra focusing on the decline of imagination, that meanders agreeably, before the six piece boom out in unison ‘we are, we are, auto neutron, auto neutron’. This notion is cemented by that high pitched guitar distortion that runs concurrently then amalgamates with a frustrated human wailing. This crescendo is clearly an enjoyable performance piece for the band, and those in close attendance at their latest sweat laced inebriation with the most efficiently perfuse chemicals and alcohol available.
Certain influences are apparent and abundant on ‘Auto Neutron’ and present on many of the album’s offerings; the weightless guitar haze of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Bard of Salford’s guttural verbosity, the compositional impulsiveness of Faust, or the stripped out manic punking instigation found on ‘Heaven on Earth’ or ‘Wild American Prairie’ that’s reminiscent of Richard Hell or Suicide’s self titled.
And then of course there’s ‘Cream of the Young’, surely the most controversial offering of all after the recent revelations, investigations and trials of the sordid historical mis-deeds of BBC’s glory era elite of light entertainment. In case you didn’t know Stuart Hall, Jimmy Saville and Rolf Harris sexually assaulted underage girls, and there are lingering allegations of a paedophile ring among Westminster’s elite that allowed them to abuse young boys in rural care homes during the 70’s and 80’s. These rumours have been on the internet for a while, but it’s hard not to be impressed by the coincidental timing of Champagne Holocaust’s release and the exposure of these crimes to a wider, previously unsuspecting, audience. In the video for ‘Cream of the Young’ one of family – isn’t it better that they remain nameless, and that I want them too? – sports a Hitler-esque tashe. The band sits at table in front of feast gorging themselves and fellating odd looking food, while some ‘Fluffer’ figure dressed in stockings show dances in the camera’s foreground in front of the dinner table. Eventually the fluffer squirts cum (whipped cream) at them, and the band lap up this cream in their mouths, or lick it lovingly from their fingers. It is yet another uncomfortable visual metaphor of the gluttonous consumption of privilege can easily lead to corruption that marries with the song’s lyrics.
‘Cream of the Young’ exposes and poses a truth, and gives us a means test that fairly sifts the cynical from the rest. As a consequence of prioritising artistic freedom, Fat White Family can approach a topic such as paedophilia with their anarchic ‘we don’t give a fuck’ glibness, as appropriately, and perversely, it probably accurately mirrors (in some way) the contempt Hall, Harris and Saville showed towards their victims. Conversely, say the methodically product placed Mumford & Sons tried tackling such a subject matter in this way, there would be a fatally toxic mixture confusion, revulsion and derision from their masses who demand safe unchallenging narratives set within the confines of the band’s trademark idyllically bucolic idealisms. Placed in such a context Fat White Family’s status as a band that refuses to take itself that seriously, that’s immersed in a culture that’s so full of itself that it needs to, is validated.
Up until recently I admonished the fact that more people would prefer to listen to gash cash obsessed twats like Mumford & Sons or whatever cuntpop dirge they’re pumping out this week. Not now, we must accept that the war of taste was lost long ago. This cynical mass and their acolytes deserve each other.
The rest of us deserve upstarts like Fat White Family, and other musicians who are unafraid to challenge, to experiment, to rile, to defile and ultimately destroy themselves as a way of living for ideas, for music. That’s art.
And so we come to that question – do you like them? If so that means you’re well on your way to not being a cunt, which in world full of them, trying to destroy it with the mediocrity of cynicism, that’s a start.