Young Fathers – White Men Are Black Men Too
Mercury Prize-winning trio come back in style
In an era when designed-in, risk-averse formulism is the only style which is allowed into the mainstream, it’s pleasing to hear Edinburgh trio Young Fathers unashamedly describe themselves as pop music. From that out-of-the-blue but utterly deserved Mercury win (and the Scottish Album of the Year before it) to their dignified / truculent non-interviews afterwards and the unlikely announcement that they’ll be supporting Paul Weller on his upcoming arena tour, they seem determined to buck expectations in a most charismatically ostentatious manner.
In light of the above, decamping to Berlin to record their new album and releasing it within six months feels very much like part of Ally Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and ‘G’ Hastings’ determinedly opposite strategy. And then you hear it and these suspicions find themselves confirmed, such is the brilliant, playfully confrontational attitude of it all. That title kicks it off, and the song it comes from – ‘Old Rock n Roll’, positioned midway through the album – doesn’t disappoint, a treatise on race in the 21st century based around a loping, MIA-esque sampled beat, a punk vocal yelp and amused dismay at so-called ‘rock’n’roll’s weak dilution of its black origins. It’s a song worthy of a full review in its own right, seemingly based around the strong vocal contention that injustice and discrimination are best born across social divisions: ‘I’m tired of playing the good black … I’m tired of blaming the white man … some white men are black men too / n***** to them, a gentleman to you.’
This frankness lurks throughout, but doesn’t make itself known quite as readily elsewhere as the catchy ingenuity of the music, from the motoric gabba loop of ‘Shame’ to that dramatic, sepulchral pipe organ riff which permeates ‘Rain Or Shine’ and the busy gospel chant of ‘Nest’. Never willing to surrender itself to easy listening, the album’s artistic success isn’t in doubt – whether it really is pop, however, is now in the hands of the audience rather than the creators.
White Men Are Black Men Too is out Mon Apr 6.