WORKING MEN'S CLUB / LAZARUS KANE, 20TH FEBRUARY 2020, CARDIFF CLWB IFOR BACH
Fat White Family's influence may be somewhat overstated by besotted music journalists, but you can't deny they've lived up to their name and spawned. Tonight's bill offers the opportunity to see two of their offspring in action.
Lazarus Kane is the proverbial riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma - or at least an American with an accent so hammy it sounds affected, wrapped in a garish silk kimono, inside another garish silk kimono. Among his backing band is a keyboard player with a ginger mullet and moustache combo that makes him look like a drinking buddy of Begbie who regularly mistakes other men's ears for bar snacks.
Musically, they're no less baffling: a mess of Prince, !!!, rock 'n' roll, jaundiced disco beats, cowbell, flute and madcap Speedy Wunderground labelmates Squid that very occasionally coalesces into moments of genius like single 'Narcissus'. Kane has previously promised that the band's live shows deliver "confusion, arousal and lingering disappointment", and he's not wrong.
Working Men's Club have actually toured with the Fat Whites (playing at Tramshed as recently as November), but they're as much a product of place as of predecessors - that place being Todmorden, situated in the bohemian corridor between Manchester and Leeds where rent is (currently) reasonably cheap, rehearsal/studio spaces are plentiful and the dark hills are alive with the dull throb of illegal raves. Having signed to Heavenly in the middle of 2019, they've been forced to grow up in public, changing half of their members in search of their own voice.
First things first: they look amazing. Syd Minsky-Sargeant: Ian Curtis if he'd lived long enough to enjoy Factory's second peak and frequent the Hacienda. Mairead O'Connor (also of The Moonlandingz): bored oligarch's wife browsing Harrods - Russian fur hat, Burberry scarf, shades, pout, vacant ceilingwards gaze. Rob Graham (borrowed from Drenge): Brylcreemed teddy boy stopping by your house to pick up your older sister in his Ford Capri. Liam Ogburn: bass lynchpin with darting eyes around whom everything else revolves.
Instantly, the dramatic mode of the evening switches from pantomime to serious theatre as Working Men's Club reveal themselves to be an ambitious reimagining of mainstream 80s pop - The Human League, Depeche Mode, even Duran Duran - in the post-punk brain of Mark E Smith. Songs like 'Teeth' are built around an electronic backbone and bristle with the same menace that Minsky-Sargeant exudes even when bobbing shirtless through the teenage throng at the front.
It's enough to make us gentlemen of a certain age further back very excited indeed, and thankful for young people who've grown up with great record collections and now have everything at their fingertips via Spotify but most importantly possess the talent and vision to make creative, interesting use of what they've absorbed.
Yup, the Fat White Kids are alright, alright.
(An edited version of this review appeared on the Buzz website.)