Young Fathers - White Men Are Black Men Too

by Rob Taylor Rating:8.5 Release Date:2015-04-07

Young Fathers' last album, the Mercury Prize-winning Dead, was a veritable TARDIS of ideas incorporating ‘boy band’ harmonics, canny instrumentation, and traces of that grimy, urban hip-hop sound characteristic of EL-P’s Definitive Jux label. The dystopian 'Mmmh Mmmh' from that album was reminiscent of the unease in Burial’s work. Or the monotonic keyboard repetition and tinkling cowbells of 'Just Another Bullet', or the chorale and austere orchestral sounds of 'War'. The subtle ragga of 'Dip'. In the ‘hip-hop’ cannon, Young Fathers preferred the adventure trail over the chosen path.

Sophomore effort White Men Are Black Men Too sees Young Fathers restlessly pursuing that varied instrumental palette by adding colour and rhythm, a (slightly) more upbeat mood. The darker synths and staccato percussion of Dead gave it a despondent atmosphere. This time there’s a bounce in the step.

Take ‘Shame’, with its danceable canter, and its monochords resolving out of dissonance into something more melodious. Or ‘27’, with its gentle sing-along harmonies devolving into conventional shuffle. Or the cheeky sideshow-alley keyboard introduction to ‘Rain or Shine’, after which a call-and-response ‘id talking to ego’ vocal segues into distant voices singing in a kind of choral rabble. The track rounds off with some off-kilter dissonant sound-effects.

The bent strings, caterwauling, and toy orchestra cacophony on ‘Old Rock 'n' Roll’ is pure inspiration. ‘Liberated’ is a mini-jam build-up of discordant keyboard and gospel choir. 'John Doe' is another warped street-shuffle replete with all kinds of vocal ticks, whistling and harmonics. 'Dare Me' gets really scary when boyband tranquility meets rabid howling, shaking proceedings way off course.

This is an excellent album which reveals more on each listen. The very abrupt closure to final track ‘Get Started’ is a signal that the journey Young Fathers find themselves on is far from complete.

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