Album reviews: Lizzo – Cuz I Love You, Fat White Family – Serfs Up! and Cage the Elephant – Social Cues

Lizzo, Cuz I Love You


No one could accuse Lizzo of holding back. Not when it comes to her voice – which is raw and rowdy, so laden with personality even the vulnerable moments are a joy to listen to – and certainly not when it comes to her message of unabashed self-love. That’s the predominant theme of the singer / rapper / flautist-extraordinaire’s hugely likeable third album, Cuz I Love You.

“I’m like chardonnay, get better over time,” she sings on the funk-pop banger “Juice”. “Heard you say I’m not the baddest, bitch, you lie.” “Woke up feeling like I just might run for president,” she announces on “Like a Girl”, “even if there ain’t no precedent.” Later on that song, whose chanty chorus is not quite as brilliant as its friskily rapped verses, she declares: “Only exes that I care about are in my f**king chromosomes.”

This is a polished, playful album, though it has a DIY edge to it: “S**t, f**k, I didn’t know it was ending right there,” she chuckles in the final few moments of “Like a Girl”. “Girl, run this s**t back,” she says after a vivacious flute solo on “Tempo” – a song featuring a guest verse from Missy Elliott, the person who, Lizzo said on Twitter, “made this chubby, weird, black girl believe that ANYTHING was possible”.

When Lizzo played Coachella earlier this week, her set was plagued by technical problems. “When I’m headlining next time,” she announced, “I’m gonna need my motherf**king ears to work.” Judging by the strength of her third album, that might not be such an implausible assumption. Alexandra Pollard


Fat White Family, Serfs Up!


Pygmalion. The Elephant Man. Chris Eubank. And now, to this classic roll call of gutter-to-grandeur stories, we must add the Fat White Family. Once they were south London drug scoundrels renowned for smothering audiences with offal and openly fondling themselves while singing about Nazis, grotty sex, paedophilia and Disneyland terror attacks. Now, over the course of three albums, they’ve shifted their grosser tendencies over to their numerous side-projects – notably fictional band The Moonlandingz, often to be found wrapped in cling film and smothered in swastikas and expletives – and suddenly developed an air of culture and sophistication.

It seems as likely as Old Man Steptoe dining with the Rees-Mogg, but this new tactic of burying their confrontational gruesomeness beneath a veneer of alt-rock respectability for album three works well for them. Drenched in chamber strings and celestial harmonies, the plush yet sinister “Oh Sebastian” could be Pet Sounds selling its soul to the devil. “Fringe Runner” is so sleek and funksome it could be a New Romantic “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)”; “Kim’s Sunsets” is a piece of refined cosmic reggae resembling a blissed-out “Bankrobber”.

Inevitably, at times, their feral nature peeks through. “Tastes Good With the Money” might be a glorious anthem of corroded glam rock, but it comes with a spoken-word interlude about the apocalypse from Baxter Dury and a video of an upper-class garden party descending into an ultraviolent bloodbath. For all the suave disco noir of “Feet”, the song includes phrases better suited to a BNP rally chant. There’s a narcotic space funk tune about dating sex workers (“Bobby’s Boyfriend”), and a Tame Impala-like dream-pop homage to Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” called “Vagina Dentata”, which means exactly what you think it does. Tarantino bossa novas and Velvets drones are all imbued with a luminous, cultured seediness, like the entire Cannes Film Festival owning up to its social diseases. Wonderfully unsettling. Mark Beaumont

Cage the Elephant, Social Cues


On Cage the Elephant’s fifth album, Social Cues, frontman Matt Shultz reacts to the breakdown of his marriage and the loss of three close friends. He undergoes a kind of Jekyll and Hyde transition through the 13 tracks, the result of which is the band’s best work to date.

Assisted by producer John Hill, whose previous credits include co-writing Portugal. The Man’s mega-hit “Feel it Still”, the Kentucky-formed, Nashville-based Cage the Elephant remain faithful to their neo-soul influenced brand of garage rock but move to something darker and far more visceral.

Social Cues opens with the bouncy punk of “Broken Boy”, where the raw, driving energy and distorted vocal delivery recall The Damned’s seminal 1977 track “Neat Neat Neat”. From there, it twists and turns through Shultz’s tormented mind, asking the listener to question certain social traits we adopt as a means to conform.

Single “Ready to let Go” is by far the most explicit – a moody swamp-rock jam where Shultz comes to terms with his impending divorce. “House of Glass” is a sequence of frenzied mutterings with a buzzsaw guitar cutting through his attempts to convince himself of love’s existence. The symphonic arrangements on “Love’s the Only Way” and “What I’m Becoming” harks back to 2017’s live album, Unpeeled.

By the time the album reaches its closing track you’re well prepared for a blistering climax, which makes the stripped-back, sombre piano notes and Shultz’s low murmurs on “Goodbye” all the more disarming. It’s a song steeped in regret for things that weren’t said, or done, tempered with a bittersweet tone of acceptance.

Social Cues is an album where Shultz bares his soul, and apparently shakes off a few demons in the process. Roisin O’Connor