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16th May 2023

‘Adventures in Limbo’: Fat White Family’s Saul Adamczewski wanders into the acoustic abyss

Five years on from the ground-breaking, disturbed pop of Insecure Men’s eponymous debut, and four years on from Fat White Family’s last release, Adamczewski takes charge on another project: ‘Adventures in Limbo’. An honest, acoustic look at that same sly, gap-toothed grimace.
‘Adventures in Limbo’: Fat White Family’s Saul Adamczewski wanders into the acoustic abyss
Saul Adamczewski @ Juicy Juice

I could write for hours about the torturous genius that is Saul Adamczewski. First having broken through to indie-darling status with teenaged vitriolics The Metros, the skeletal figure from South-East London fully reached critical damnation with his work in the Fat White Family. Both tuneful and tuneless, chaotic and methodical, the cult band are by no means easy to characterise, however one thing that always floats to the surface is their warped point of view. Spearheaded by his sardonic wit, Saul’s obsession with bizarre music and pop-culture has led his various projects into all sorts of dark topics – from ballads about the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Whitney Houston’s untimely death to introverted looks at the pathetic side of sexuality. This new LP is the first to bear Adamczewski’s own name – a true solo project, without his usual lyrical collaborator, Lias Saoudi. As such, like many, I didn’t quite know what to expect…


To set the scene, I arrived at Night and Day Café only to be told there would be a half an hour delay. This was hardly surprising, considering Saul’s reputation. ‘Where’s Saul?’ has become somewhat of a recurring in-joke amongst Fats fans, with the infamous songwriter being somewhat of an elusive character, especially right before a show is scheduled to begin… That night, however, the stars aligned, and a brilliantly attentive audience were treated to his presence.


All around me I was flanked by mullets, shag cuts and greasy suits – disciples of this wayward genius. The very scene would inevitably be something Adamczewski and his compatriots would fine amusing. Middle-class fashion people supping on £5 pints…


The whole venue seemed wrapped around his finger, pensive, alert, and silent. And in true, scathingly ironic fashion, the man behind the merch table emerged onto stage to introduce the headline-act. Sarcastic slam-poetry to a jazzy hi-hat click. I’d expect nothing less. We were off.


In amongst Adamczewski’s repeated grumbles to dim the lights, a slow, acoustic flutter began to emerge, and into the first song we went. Entitled ‘The Midlands’, Saul’s feeble, fluttering voice ducked and weaved around the melody like a train would through the dull Leicestershire countryside. The song is purportedly a confused love-letter to the Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station and its surrounding areas, featuring wry-smiled references to the “middle-class nightmare” and “pebbledash dream” of Britain’s forgotten counties.


In full spirit of ‘The Midlands’, Saul followed the tune with the sarcastic comment, “You know what, I might have to vote Tory next time”, his sarcasm seeping through his gap-toothed grin. This was followed by a bizarre chant of ‘We Want the Queen’, over and over as the band slowly faded to a halt.

Thomas Bresson @ Wikimedia Commons

Picking back up again, Adamczewski’s open-tuned guitar truly took centre stage, with the accompanying organ and drums merely providing subtle texture. Across this tour, various members of Insecure Men – Saul’s wonky pop side-project with Ben Romans-Hopcraft of Warmduscher and Childhood fame – comprised the backing band, with glockenspiel, saxophone, clarinet and flute all making an appearance at none other than South London’s The Windmill. Tonight however, in his own words, they were “exposed”. The songs, and of course the lyrics, took centre stage over his favoured elaborate arrangements.


As the set meandered along, Adamczewski showed off Harry Nilsson-tinged pop, with ‘I Miss Living Without You’ – dedicated to his wife, in what can only be described as a comically confessional moment. The melodic bounce of the track seemed reminiscent of the likes of ‘Teenage Toy’ from the Insecure Men LP,


A slightly newer influence on display was that of John Fahey, with the tunes ‘Papa Baja’ and ‘People of the World’. The organ’s steady warble would just prop up a wandering finger-picked guitar line and airy vocal, as they ambled between chords. Each stunning melody seemed ever the more fragile, only contrasted by his typically strange lyrical content. His references featured everything from imprisoned boxer Paul Sykes to squabbles with his Fats bandmate Nathan Saoudi. Nathan’s new side project, Brian Destiny, was especially among the ire of Saul’s lyrical malice.


Each song seemed ever more confessional, frank, vulnerable.


Every so often, you could feel the audience smile at his odd, observational lyrics, buried under waves of reverb. “The mock-Tudor Sainsbury’s / the young and old” was a personal favourite for me – perfectly capturing Adamczewski’s wry wit.


As though to perfectly encapsulate the moment of bare-faced honesty, the final song in the set, ‘Kent’, began with Saul and his guitar alone. Just as his wavering vocal reached a faltering peak, the wonky organ and drums kicked in to gear. After all was said and done, Saul left the audience with his thanks and this: “I have a record for sale. Please buy it or I’ll starve to death.” Brutal honesty is a not a bad trait for a musician, in my eyes.

Saul’s Promo @ Night and Day

If there is any one man to waltz us into the abyss, Saul Adamczewski can. I just wouldn’t ask him what time we’re going to get there…

Jacob Broughton-Glerup

Jacob Broughton-Glerup

Jacob Broughton-Glerup is a music journalist and avid music fan from Sheffield interested in all things lyrical and odd.

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