Most people who win a Mercury prize have somewhat a lot of anticipation in the build-up to a follow-up album. Nobody expected Young Fathers to win the Mercury prize, the odds on them winning were extremely low. But their last album ‘Dead’ did, and hopefully brought themselves a whole new fanbase with it. The band said that they weren’t going to change in the slightest with this new set of fans and now less than a year later we have a new record that proves this. ‘White Men Are Black Men Too’ is Young Fathers distancing themselves somewhat from the cleanly produced sound of their debut album and taking it back to the sound of their first EPs.
‘WMABMT’ has young Fathers abandoning their clean sound for an extremely Lo-Fi one. One that enhances their uses of noisy elements as they keep their influences of African music and pop music. The influence of Hip-Hop is turned down along with some of the accessibility of ‘Dead’ on this album as they trade it for more soulful singing over the top of abrasive and hard-hitting instrumentals. These songs are built upon grooves that are repeated over and over as Young Fathers pile on the instruments and the vocal harmonies like on the track ‘Shame’ which has one of the catchiest vocal melodies on the album. Every single song is built to create more and more tension as it goes along, and they all succeed in ways much more successful than ‘Dead’ mainly due to the way in which they’re produced in such a Lo-Fi way.
Aesthetically this album should be pure pop at points, but there’s dirt underneath the fingernails of everything on here. ‘Rain Or Shine’ has an extremely catchy vocal melody and a pleasant chord progression on an organ, (that sounds like it’s bound to end up on a commercial for mobile phones) but then every drumbeat behind it sounds so distant and a lot of the vocals have been drenched in reverb and are recorded in a way that sounds so gritty. A lot of the instrumentals sound like they’ve been slightly detuned to sound ever so slightly twisted like on the track ‘Liberated’ which makes every piano chord sound slightly flamboyant. Elsewhere they channel elements of spoken word into tracks like the aforementioned ‘Rain Or Shine’ and the song ‘Nest’ has them channelling their inner influence of Motown and Soul into a song with an extremely playful beat that’s got all these beautiful piano chords pushed to the back of their mixing.
Young Fathers take the stance of many at the moment in the heated topic about race, yet don’t do it in a way that shoves it in your face. This record is stunning sonically to the point where it’s completely enjoyable even if you take a different stance than what they offer on this record. ‘Old Rock And Roll’ is the most obvious they get to talking about their subject of the album title and it’s also the most Hip-Hop sounding song on the album. They take an interesting stance in that they find it annoying and even ignorant to constantly divide people more-so than ever by identifying them as black or white. It’s not directly blaming black people for the things they suffer through though and in many ways it’s similar to what Kendrick Lamar was saying on ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ in relation to respect and how it feels to be caught up in such an identity crisis as being seen as a ‘black man’ or ‘white man’ rather than just a man. Elsewhere on the track ‘Sirens’ Young Fathers touch upon police brutality. It’s never quite encapsulating lyrically because of the way it’s recorded and might be one of the only ways it’s detrimental for this album.
As sophomore albums go, Young Fathers have delivered one that has completely thrown expectation out of the window and simultaneously given us one that has shown us that they have the potential to be one of the most consistent and experimental groups to be coming from Scotland and the UK at the moment. these guys are constantly channelling more and more influences while giving us an album that feels brilliantly coherent.
Best Tracks: 27, Rain Or Shine, shame, Nest, Liberated