Having won the Mercury Prize last year, Young Fathers have been thrust into a rather peculiar and unenviable critical position with their second full-length effort White Men Are Black Men Too. Essentially, not only have they had to contend with the stigma of the ‘dreaded second album’ and the projected success that’s expected of that milestone, they’ve had to comprehend the ‘curse of the Merury Prize’, a double whammy in terms of external pseudo-pressure and a stumbling block that saw Gorillaz withdraw from the ceremony many moons ago. The beauty of this arguably sticky (and fairly ridiculous) situation is that Young Fathers haven’t gave a shit, and instead, have gathered themselves to release a record that’s pretty bloody outstanding.
White Men Are Black Men Too is so stylistically diverse and full of the substance to back it up that it isn’t any wonder it’s doing the rounds across the media and has been a cakewalk for critical comment. The record bears all the semblance of the debut, but it’s evolved. The production is a colourful display of a plethora of new musical directions, but it’s a focused record nonetheless. The political mission statement with which Young Fathers burst onto the scene is changed, but it isn’t lost, it’s more poignant than ever. There is a wealth of potential that the Edinburgh outfit have obviously mined to their advantage on this album and it’s apparent throughout – ‘Still Running’ and its technicolour nod to the hip hop of the past, its chugging percussion propelling the vocal delivery. ‘Shame’ is a melting-pot of futuristic R&B with a cutting synth bass and a very Motown-esque, insistent beat. It’s heartfelt and pained at times, but indicates the dexterity of Young Fathers’ commitment to their creative vernacular. ‘Feasting’ too displays all the motifs one could come to expect from a varied musical vision, but the focus is not lost.
This is an album that should have something for everybody, and indeed, Young Fathers may well employ the long line of black-music artists and styles that have come before them, but it’s an inclusive record overall. There are elements of a range of genres to be found here. Tracks like ‘Rain or Shine’, ‘Old Rock n Roll’ or ‘John Doe’ display the breadth of Young Fathers’ vision as well as admirably represent and communicate their feelings on race and capitalism, politics and more. However, the true beauty of White Men Are Black Men Too is the varied nature of the compositions, and that conveys that it doesn’t matter what your tastes are or what your background is, you’re welcome to join them on their journey.