The Battle of the Budget Supermarkets
IN THIS PHOTO: Fat White Family/PHOTO CREDIT: Roger Sargent/NME
Are Fat White Family and Sleaford Mods’ Critiques of Their Rivals All That Smart?
I know the South London band Fat White Family...
are not the only ones to be culpable of some rash and unnecessary words but, as their criticism seems to be the most alarming and needless, I will start with them. I am pleased there are bands like them around right now. They have a desire to highlight change and expose the realities of British society. There are a lot of bands who are writing in a very aware and reactive way. The country is going through the doldrums and, away from the placid and safe Pop artists, it is good to discover something a lot more rewarding, deep and important. I think music should have an element of escapism but it needs to be truthful and carry some weight. I do think, for years, bands have strayed away from addressing politics and society – I do wonder why this is. We have a few bands that are tackling everything from depression and mental-health issues to political divisions and the struggles of the street. Fat White Family are not new when it comes to flapping their chins in the general direction of controversy and insult. Back in January 2017, the band got themselves ‘noticed’ because of comments made towards Slaves. NME covered the news at the time but, essentially,
UK music industry trade association, the BPI has announced the recipients of this year’s Music Exports Growth Scheme grant. The annual grant is awarded to British artists to allow them to tour and promote their music overseas...
IN THIS PHOTO: Slaves/PHOTO CREDIT: Andy Hughes/NME
Responding to the news that Slaves will receive around £12k from the grant, Fat White Family took to Facebook to write: “Why does a band that has been on a major label (Virgin/EMI) for three years need a grant explicitly designed to support artists trying to break through on independent labels?”
In this case, Fat White Family got their facts wrong and it seemed like they were having a go without really knowing the truths and details. Too Many Blogs reacted to the news:
“A band who are reasonably well known for spouting their lots of opinions, unwanted or otherwise, is Fat White Family. You know, those loveable scumbags who openly do too many drugs and go fucking mental on a regular basis? They’re currently attempting to traverse a very wobbly tightrope between balancing their anti-establishment identity and their successful, industry-aligned current situation where they hang out with millionaires. The struggle eh? Must be pretty tough. Fat Whites did certainly struggle to maintain industry and fan interest in the three-year interval between their 2013 debut album Champagne Holocaust and 2016’s Songs For Our Mothers, and when that gained less than fruitful reviews, what was left for the Brixton boys but becoming official trolls of the music industry”.
“Already, Fat Whites have mislead their sheep in describing this “explicitly designed” grant as one to help acts “break through on independent labels”. When in reality its purpose was to help artists with “overseas promotional touring and marketing”....
I’d like to immediately point out how important this is as it almost totally invalidates the rest of their short but succinct rant. Why are they trying to rile everyone up in a frenzy about something so inaccurate? To put the spotlight on independent artists that are so often fucked over by the corporate machine and help out the little guy? Perhaps. Or was it simply to deflect the unjustness of this cruel, cruel industry that’s done their careers and bank accounts so well onto Slaves so that no-one will notice? Seems more likely to me”.
I feel attacking Slaves for receiving a grant – along with other artists – was a cheap blow and, given the fact both bands are fairly similar regarding their sound and musical intention, there should have been support rather than judgement and scold. Now, as NME report again, Fat White Family are not done slagging other acts off:
In a Facebook post promoting their upcoming UK and Europe tour, the band wrote that they are “100% with Jason Williamson [of Sleaford Mods] on that band Idles.”
Part of the message reads: “the last thing our increasingly puritanical culture needs right now is a bunch of self neutering middle class boobs telling us to be nice to immigrants; you might call that art, I call it sententious pedantry.”
But then the band took aim at Sleaford Mods, writing: “That being said how long are Sleaford Mods going to keep banging on about shit wages and kebabs? There’s only two of them and they have NO BACKLINE!$$$$$$$$$$$$$££!!!!”
I like artists who can stir a bit of trouble and make music more interesting but, in the case of Fat White Family, they are very petulant and smack of professional jealousy. IDLES are a much more popular and strong act and are resonating because they are talking about subjects people want to hear. I have never heard IDLES come out and say they are middle-class and there is nothing to suggest they are. Regardless of their social upbringing, why would that matter or lack authenticity?! Can you only be convincing and connected to lyrics regarding immigration and poverty if you are working-class?! IDLES possess more venom, determination and passion than any of their contemporaries and you know they mean every word they say. Fat White Family pride themselves on being honest and having a degree of reality. They are probably a bit more aware and familiar with the strains of unemployment and the ‘real people’ but each band are working from the same page and should not be undermining the other. It is like low-value supermarkets - you can include Sam Fender and Shame in the list - offering accessibility to the masses but, to get ahead, attacking the others in the press; going out your way to poison and undermine the competition. IDLES are popular for a reason and they are no less aware of what it is to struggle than anyone else. Frontman Joe Talbot has lot a child and experienced the death of a parent and, for such a young man, that sort of pain is a lot more harsh and potent than anything Fat White Family have encountered.
PHOTO CREDIT: @melissaaskew/Unsplash
I have nothing against Fat White Family and, in actuality, I think bands like them and IDLES should be forming coalition and bringing their songs together – the former attacking the latter is rather desperate, needless and petty. Fat White Family turning their gun on Sleaford Mods, again, is asking for trouble and it seems, in some way, they are trying to be the modern-day Oasis: putting down Blur and other 1990s bands because they are inferior and a bit crap. Fat White Family are nowhere near Oasis in terms of quality and coolness and, the fact their tour schedule is less busy and ambitious as IDLES means their words are rather shallow. If IDLES are these middle-class posers then how come they scored immense reviews with their first two albums and have incredible demand all around the world?! The Bristol band have really fooled the world and I wonder how long before they get rumbled and called out?! Of course IDLES are genuine and Sleaford Mods’ kebabs-and-low-wages songwriting is immensely popular. They also add humour and variation and their music covers multiple avenues. Sleaford Mods’ Jason Williamson, as this article shows, is not a fan of IDLES either!
The Nottingham duo have often attacked IDLES on Twitter, and now Williamson has revealed why in a fan Q&A on The Guardian...
Asked about “the beef”, Williamson said that he was a fan of the band’s debut album – before taking issue with the lyrics to ‘Well Done’ and many of the causes that IDLES advocate when learning about their background.
“I quite liked ‘Brutalism’ when it came out. It wasn’t my kind of music but I liked some of it – it was catchy,” said Williamson. “And they were nice lads, polite online and stuff. But I thought they were kind of a street band, there were lines like ‘Tarquin’ that would insinuate that they were knocking the middle classes, but it turns out they’re not working class.”
“That offended me, because I then held the belief that they were appropriating, to a certain degree, a working class voice.”
“Music can’t solve political problems. And I think their take on it is cliched, patronising, insulting and mediocre. And that’s why I have a problem with them. I take music seriously, and I’ve come from a place where this music has been created. Without that, we wouldn’t be here”.
I do wonder how Williamson can call out IDLES betraying the working-class voice when he is giving a Q&A with The Guardian – not exactly aimed at the working-class, is it?! There is an irony seeing Williamson making such statements when there is no evidence to suggest his upbringing has been any harder than those of IDLES’! How does he know what they experience and why would he attack a band who are working in the same direction as them?!
IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify
Does a band/artist have to experience what they are writing about to make it genuine and valid?! Do we only limit Punk music to the working-class?! Where is the proof IDLES are middle-class, as I say?! There is a lot of needless beef and pettiness coming from Fat White Family and Sleaford Mods. Slaves did not retaliate to Fat White Family a couple of years back and, now that IDLES have been scolded twice within a week but Sleaford Mods and Fat White Family, they are not taking to the press to slag off them – getting all crabby and undermining their music. I love Sleaford Mods and can believe they have experienced the daily reality of low wages and the sort of figures they write about. I am not convinced they are struggle as hard as many of their subjects because they (Sleaford Mods) are so popular and do have a bit of money. They are not living in council estates and having to subside on food banks. Fat White Family are not on the breadline and closer to the black than a lot of the people they write about. Maybe both bands have more humble backgrounds than IDLES but none of these bands can say they can truly emphasise with immigrants, the struggling and those who scrape by! In fact, when IDLES talked about toxic masculinity and mental-health issues – not subjects that have anything to do with class or earnings – they were coming from experience and were talking about it much more bravely than anyone else.
PHOTO CREDIT: Roger Sargent for Rolling Stone
I find Sleaford Mods’ lyrics more limited and less powerful than IDLES. Fat White Family’s music is less explosive and memorable so it is a little rich for both acts to point a finger at their superior contemporaries. I am not a massive Slaves fan but they should not have to defend themselves and have to answer to Fat White Family. There are a lot more bands coming through that are talking about things important to a country that is divided and needs some guidance. Rather than snipe and throw shells at the others, all of these bands should do what they can to blame and highlight the politicians who are responsible for the mess. If you are concerned about the struggle of the working-class then is attacking a band the best way to solve the problem?! The point of the music from Fat White Family and Sleaford Mods is to open eyes, portray truth and keep things very real. Sniping at bands like IDLES is without provocation and does seem opportunistic. It is rather timely that Fat White Family have new music out now and Sleaford Mods’ fifth album, Eton Alive, is out on Friday. All of these criticisms seem like publicity-courting stunts and rather tacky. As much as Sleaford Mods and Fat White Family bite and chew, they will always be one step behind IDLES. I think Sleaford Mods are great and they have their own niche; they are very popular and loads of people love them.
What is the purpose and use of going after a successful and much-loved band like IDLES when they have done nothing to warrant that sort of thing?! IDLES are keeping dignified and, one suspects, do not really care whether bands like Fat White Family like them. As I say, IDLES are ruling the world and Joy as an Act of Resistance (2018) scored bigger reviews across the board than anything from Fat White Family and Sleaford Mods. Critics were not querying IDLES’ working-class ethics and whether they were posh posers looking to jump on a bandwagon! I have a lot of respect for bands/artists offering substance and value over something flash and commercial. The more we can get talking about subjects like unemployment and mental-health the better.
IN THIS PHOTO: IDLES/PHOTO CREDIT: Ebru Yildiz for Rolling Stone
The crassness and pointlessness of undermining those trying to do good is laughable and, when that criticism comes from a less-successful band then it has a whiff of jealousy! It would be good if bands like Fat White Family and Sleaford Mods corrected their heads and focused on their own paths. Fat White Family are no strangers to putting their foot in it and, the more they are in the press for attacking other bands the less respect they will get. They are, as I made clear, not Oasis – their music is not nearly strong enough to compensate for arrogance and bullish behaviour! As we all wonder where the U.K. is heading and want to make things better, let’s all work from the same hymn sheet and come together. I think these important bands – or the ‘budget supermarkets’ as I called them – are all doing great work and any derailing or side-swiping takes the focus from the music itself and leads to...
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images