Fat White Family’s Brixton Academy show back in 2016 was, without a doubt, one of the best gigs I have ever had the pleasure of attending. As a result, I have since follow any offshoots of the notoriously-unstable band fervently.
The second one of which (following The Moonlandingz, singer Lias Saoudi’s excellent, cruelly overlooked project with Eccentronic Research Council) is Insecure Men; guitarist Saul Adamczewski and Childhood’s Ben Romans-Hopcraft’s venture into surreal psychedelic pop that is as relaxing as it is unsettling. An odd combination no doubt – the melodic indie pop of Childhood with the addiction, poverty and despair that spawned Fat White Family’s distinct sound – but one which their self-titled debut has proven works strikingly well.
Notable was the age diversity of the crowd, spanning the expected cohort of indie kids to no small number of the 30+ demographic. Looking for new figures to carry the torch following Mark E Smith's recent and tragic passing perhaps? Or, as my +1 described them, the ‘Radio 6 crowd’? Personally, I think it just speaks for the sort of band Fat White Family are; one that alternative music fans of all ages simply cannot ignore.
[pullquote]How this was a financially viable move is beyond me, though it undoubtedly paid off in the form of an especially warm, rich sound[/pullquote]
Any concerns I had that the duo would rely heavily on backing tracks were quickly eradicated when it became apparent Insecure Men had mobilised 7 extra members for this tour, including a drummer, a percussionist, various synths, a saxophonist, xylophone and the occasional steel lap guitar. How this was a financially viable move is beyond me, though it undoubtedly paid off in the form of an especially warm, rich sound that pre-recorded elements would have struggled to recreate. This was obvious immediately from opener ‘Cliff Has Left the Building’, played somewhat more upbeat than the recorded version, though without sacrificing any of its surreal wooziness.
Romans-Hopcraft and Adamczewski were indeed a surprisingly good pairing onstage. Adamczewski took the lead as frontman with the occasional mordant quip, whilst the smooth basslines and backing vocals of Romans-Hopcraft spoke for themselves, complementing Adamczewski’s jangly guitar stylings and coarser singing nicely (as well as the assortment of brilliantly tasteless lyrics that went with it).
Asides from them, the standout member was the saxophonist, pulling out smooth, sleazy riffs that felt especially satisfying on the upbeat single ‘I Don’t Wanna Dance with My Baby’, and in the form of a call and response with Adamczewski on ‘All Women Love Me’.
‘Mekong Glitter’ saw large portions of the crowd let loose dancing, its scuzzy electro groove and refrain of “why? Don’t you ever ask why?” all the more infectious when experienced live. The reggae pulse of ‘Heathrow’ was exaggerated even further, layered with comically strange synth tones, Hawaiian-esque lap guitar and sleepy vocals for a thoroughly bizarre mishmash.
Adamczewski’s voice seemed to suffer towards the end of ‘Witney Houston and I’, unable to maintain the higher range it demanded. Fortunately, this was to be their penultimate song, ending with a hypnotic, sombre rendition of ‘Buried in the Bleak’, by which point it felt almost a relief to experience an emotional response that wasn’t uneasy and perplexing.
My singular biggest complaint of Insecure Men’s performance was its length; at a mere 40 minutes, the gig was over before 10, leaving me craving more of the unique idiosyncrasies that had characterised the show. Whilst those 40 minutes did admittedly encompass the entirety of their released material (one self-titled album), a couple of covers wouldn’t have felt too out of place. Though to be fair, I doubt that’s really Adamczewski’s style.