SOME PUNK ROCK SINGERS can turn their bodies into profound instruments. They're transfixing and frightening in their physicality, although the music doesn't always match the excitement of the gnashing teeth and twisting torsos.
Other times, droning psychedelic guitar groups cultivate mind-meltingly marvelous sounds, but are as boring to watch as hardening molasses.
Somewhere, melted in between, are Fat White Family: six shit-kicking, half-naked, hell-bent English lads, disciples and fervent followers drunkenly preaching the Gospels of Iggy and Lou.
Fat White Family are not, however, "British rock 'n' roll's final hurrah," as hiccupped by the nitwits at Vice. They are merely the latest in a long line of inheritors and imitators. There will be many more, at home and abroad—swilling, deviant freaks seeking refuge, or mutant scum wanting to rehash, revel in, and maybe even bugger Dead-End America.
And yeah, some of 'em will sound good. Others will put on a show. Some will even manage something to say. Fat White Family are still working on that last bit.
However tongue-in-cheek their intentions may be, it's hard to imagine why, in a world brimming with tumult, a band of twentysomething English lads have latched on to 1960s American folklore (about which most American twentysomethings couldn't care less). But on 2013's Champagne Holocaust, Fat White Family are entranced and encumbered by stale ephemera. On "Who Shot Lee Oswald?" they wonder, "Was it the Velvet Underground?" The fumes are fanned on "Wild American Prairie" and "Bomb Disneyland." Such ideas wouldn't have even been radical back in the day.
But the record is not without moments. "Borderline" is a ray of sunshine, its scuzzy sentimentality almost warming. It's "Cream of the Young," though, that shows Fat White Family pressed against their own glass ceiling. It's a filthy, dripping suggestion, one without any real specification.
Indeed, Fat White Family are at their highest as a group, blurting together atonal hymns and subversive chants, growling incantations and guttural come-ons. What exactly they're shouting about—besides the corpse of some long-dead American anti-dream—is mostly hazy.
The classic punk-rock foundation upon which Fat White Family perch—righteous band, raw nerves—remains structurally solid. It just needs a fresh coat of paint.