Album review: Young Fathers – ‘White Men Are Black Men Too’

by | Apr 14, 2015 | MUSIC

Young Fathers have been around for a while now but last year they made a huge breakthrough at the 2014 Mercury Prize awards for album of the year for De

Young Fathers have been around for a while now but last year they made a huge breakthrough at the 2014 Mercury Prize awards for album of the year for Dead; beating out artists like FKA Twigs and Damon Albarn (Gorillaz).

Now that they’ve turned some heads, Young Fathers (Members:Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole,’G’ Hastings) have released another full length LP titled White Men Are Black Men Too.

For anyone new to Young Fathers, they are a Scottish Hip-hop/Rap trio that might have more in common with Animal Collective than Outkast. There are plenty of comparisons to be made (TV on the Radio, No Age) but when it comes down to it, no one is really making music like Young Fathers.

On one hand you have soulfully sweet pop melodies with the occasional poetic rap verse. On the other hand you have psychedelic lo-fi production with influences ranging from gospel to tribal to punk rock. It’s confounding how Young Fathers can incorporate so many different genres of music into one project so effortlessly. Their eclectic style is enticing enough alone, but White Men Are Black Men Too shows Young Fathers developing their unique sound even further into their most accessible album yet.

The grooves are infectious; invigorating even. The track “Shame” might be the most catchy song on the album, but it’s also surprisingly abrasive too. Aidan Reynolds over at Drowned In Sound calls the track the “fucked-up younger brother of Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya,’ and the most summery-sounding song ever to feature the word ‘cunt.’”

Above the low-end beats there are some buzzing synths, some full-bodied piano, and really whatever random sound effects Young Fathers choose to throw in the mix. Weird drones hang in the background of some tracks. Unexplainable noises fly into the mix for a moment, but they never overstay their welcome.

Louis Pattison over at NME calls it “clattery lo-fi gospel of budget drum machines, enthusiastic xylophone, monomaniacal krautrock grooves, preacher-man testifying and a few good tunes.”

White Men Are Black Men Too can get pretty cacophonous at times, but what Young Fathers does really well on this release is create experimental music that still feels like pop music.

For every distorted synth or obscure sample, there is a melody just as sweet. Tracks like “27” are bright and cheerful in tone despite the dark lyrics.

Don’t be surprised when you’re gleefully singing along to lyrics like : “It all seems wrong when you’re picking out your coffin / I’m 27 and not in heaven / I killed a man with my bare hands.”

From the clash of genres, to the cryptic lyrics mixed with uplifting instrumentals; everything down to the album title itself is a conundrum. This albums thrives off juxtapositions and underneath the visceral pop tunes White Men carries a potent political theme.

Lyrics on the track ‘Old Rock N Roll’ read: “Some white men are black men too / Niggah to them / A gentleman to you” On the track Sirens the lyrics go: “The police are on cocaine / And they wanna know my name / Said they love me all the same”

Young Fathers definitely add to the social inequality conversation however they never really tackle the issues head on. Young Fathers vocalist Alloysious elaborated on the album on his tumblr, “How do we help tackle one of the biggest hindrances in people’s lives and the world… By not putting the question forward and not letting people debate positively or negatively about the statement?”

While Young Fathers do attempt to make a political statement, its comes across as more of a conversation starter rather than a formulated argument. If anything, White Men Are Black Men Too just reflects the frustration and confusion within the social inequality issue.

Politics aside, Young Fathers evolved both sonically and conceptually from their last album which makes it exciting to see where they will go next. In the meantime White Men Are Black Men Too is an exhilarating listen with a ton of variety. It’s a little early to start talking year end lists but take note of this one.

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner is the former editor of GayRVA and RVAMag from 2013 - 2017. He’s now the Richmond Bureau Chief for Radio IQ, a state-wide NPR outlet based in Roanoke. You can reach him at BradKutnerNPR@gmail.com




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