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Ten Thousand Apologies: Fat White Family and the Miracle of Failure

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Recommendations came and went and Fat White Family for some reason came up, so I played their Serfs Up album, more based on what I thought was a very good name for an album than anything else. There are some ridiculous levels of drug consumption that are occasionally hard to believe and it does become quite dark but there is always a funny scene/anecdote not far away. Just as the band finally seem to be breaking through to the mainstream, Covid lockdowns stop their momentum and they’re back on their uppers again, skint, nowhere to live. It’s impossible to mythologise a band when they fit into a cascade of differing rock legends in the very same chapter.

Ten Thousand Apologies, with its detailed descriptions of fuck-ups and come-downs, of opportunities missed and decisions untaken, isn’t going to change this reputation.

Emily Spowage is perfect for the 3rd person telling, and this is offset superbly by the world weariness of Lias narration.

If one is into say the more experimental pop of The Beatles they may find them a curio, they also might be surprised about a very strong link to those musical superstars if they read/listened to this exceptional book. You could see the entire Fat Whites’ story as a quest – an epic, swashbuckling, decade-long battle – simply to bag some affordable housing.At its center are the two Saoudi boys, Lias and Nathan, whose upbringing across Scotland, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Algeria, and London forms the surprising highlight of the book, as well as Saul Adamczewski, whose prodigious musical talent is matched only by his prodigious drug habit. We hear about the Saoudis’ background: their mum, Michelle, grew up in working-class Huddersfield; their dad, Bashir, came to England from Algeria. Fully bound in burgundy cloth covered boards; front cover artwork embossed in black; acid-free Fedrigoni paper; Fabriano Tiziano purple endpapers.

Shangri-La on their way down to the Hell Stage that night, my brother and I were accosted by ‘uber-producer’ Mark Ronson. When we arrived on the Saturday afternoon, neither of us having slept for two days, we made our way straight up to his tent round the back of the Park Stage. The Saoudi brothers have an Algerian dad and a mum from Huddersfield, so much of the early part of the book focuses on their experiences with appalling racism in Northern Ireland, where they lived for a while after their partners acrimoniously parted, and their visits to North Africa to try and make some sense of their identity.So starts 'Ten Thousand Apologies', the new fabricated, reimagined, alternative and embellished (and yet perhaps true) portrait of Fat White Family written by singer and front person Lias Saoudi and novelist and poet Adelle Stripe. The madness, intelligence, and belligerence of the main protagonists is nothing short of mesmerising. You’ll be good until tonight, beamed the Landlord, the corners of his mouth pulled back in pseudo-parental glee. They'd never been to the festival before and they were on a high, despite finding out that our set the next day clashed with Lionel Richie’s. Loved and loathed in equal measure since their formation in 2011, the relentlessly provocative, stunningly dysfunctional “drug band with a rock problem” have dedicated themselves to constant chaos and total creative freedom at all costs.

And that is also the attraction of the book, a permanent sense of not belonging in all worlds they were exposed to, be that of their parents, the schools attended and even the world they joined, that being music and outlier performance art.Actually, Lias’s description of that festival – the grubby glamour, the sweaty tent – is so accurate that it could bring on a sympathetic nervous breakdown. His film work has been nominated for a Special Jury Prize at Tribeca Film Festival and his photography has been widely published online and, in print, in the Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone UK, and in the London Times Bestseller, Ten Thousand Apologies: Fat White Family and the Miracle of Failure. By the end of this read you really get the sense that Lias, or any member of the FWF, might actually not be someone you would like or immediately recognize the ingenue in if you met them in person, which is the same to be said about every other stranger on the street.

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