young-fathers

Loud and Quiet readers, of course, are not dilettantes. They are savvy, well-informed and culturally astute. The more casual listener, though, might be wondering how on earth Young Fathers have managed to put together a second album in the four months since they scooped that Mercury Prize for their full-length debut, ‘Dead’. But while that record made its belated entrance into the mainstream consciousness – and the UK album chart – in November of 2014, it had already taken up a special place in the hearts and minds of its converts for the best part of a year.

So although it would have been understandable if the group’s triumphant set at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party signalled the beginning of a creative hiatus off the back of a gruelling year, there was no such temptation. In fact, it turns out that the award and its accompanying buzz was a mere ellipsis in the sessions that spawned this, the Scottish trio’s second album proper.

Upon announcing the new LP, Alloysious Massaquoi stated that it would be the group’s, “interpretation of what a pop album should be,” and the first thing to note is that, for all the discord – and Young Fathers love nothing more than bending a note just out of tune – this is an incredibly catchy collection. In turns caustic and celebratory, they are always careful to build their off-kilter hip hop, neo soul and R&B around a backbone of indelible, multi-coloured hooks so that ‘White Men…’ is closer to the psychedelic pop of Animal Collective or Dan Deacon than any hip hop contemporaries. And that’s exactly it: this is so much more than a hip hop album.

But the real skill here is how deftly they balance darkness and light. The lo-fi motorik beats and tinny keyboards of the album’s duskier moments (‘Shame’, ‘Feasting’), for example, evoke the claustrophobic synthpunk of Suicide and Pere Ubu, but they are melded into warm, uplifting dub (‘27’, ‘Nest’) – all xylophones and major chord pianos – with ease. Elsewhere, ‘Old Rock ‘n’ Roll’’s avant-garde take on Southern gospel, an acerbic deconstruction of racial prejudice, contrasts with ‘Liberated,’ a wonderfully warped take on the Stones’ classic stomping R&B sound that passes its choirs through lines of delay pedals and back again.

And so the timing of that Mercury, coming towards the end of the album’s creation, might just have been perfect. Follow-ups often suffer from having one eye on the wants of a new audience but ‘White Men…’ doesn’t compromise. It’s trippy and disorientating and yet always maddeningly catchy; a faded photograph of a pop album. But in any case, I don’t get the sense that Messrs Massaquoi, Bankole and Hastings ever needed our validation anyway.

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