Albums, Music, The Revue — April 8, 2015 at 8:00 am

Young Fathers – “White Men Are Black Men Too”

by

Last year, Edinburgh’s Young Fathers surprised people with their Mercury Prize victory, beating out the likes of FKA Twigs, Royal Blood, Anna Calvi, and Damon Albarn. It was surprising mostly because their masterful Dead went under the radar with so many critics within the print and online media and blogosphere. However, a few places, including ourselves, acknowledged the album as one of the best of albums the year for its complexity and innovative mix of hip hop, R&B, rock, pop, and indie and songwriting that went well beyond the mundane and typical “love songs”.

A year later, Kayus Bankole, Graham Hastings, and Alloysious Massaquoi return with White Men Are Black Men Too. It builds on Dead but takes it another step while retaining the central tenets of that breakthrough album. As Bankole expressed in interview last spring, “Words should carry weight. As Fela Kuti said, music is a weapon, so use it to your best ability. He doesn’t have the most beautiful voice, but you can feel the soul. And us, we have soul, which allows us to do what we do and to write things that are meaningful.”

Now 27 years old and more than a decade making music together, the trio have come a long ways from the days of making music on Hastings’ £10 Cool-J Mix music program to becoming one of the UK’s buzziest bands. But despite their increasing popularity, the trio haven’t compromised the essence of their artistry. Instead, on WMABMT, they are still pushing the boundaries musically and with their songwriting. Like on Dead, the group continues to try to come to grips growing up in today’s complicated world and what it  means to be an individual in the 21st Century, which is best evidenced on the rhythmic “27”; the scintillating “Still Running”; the TV on the Radio-esque, rapturous burner “Shame”; and the cataclysmic “Rain or Shine”, which follows on Dead’s “Get Up” with the K-os-like hip-hop and rock mix.

There are also songs that question the establishment and attempt to find peace within the chaos, such as on the graceful and beautiful “Nests”, the euphoric “Liberated”, and the whirlwind, quick-ending “Dare Me”. It is on “Sirens”, however, that hits the hardest despite the mellow and lush tones and textures. Lyrically, it is poignant, speaking about misuse of justice and that no individual is safe regardless if they have faith in a higher order. “Old Rock N Roll” and “John Doe” demonstrate the trio’s allegorical prowess. The former is essentially the title track of the album and uses “rock ‘n roll” as an allegorical weapon to speak about equality and unity among the different peoples of the planet. The incorporation of Middle Eastern textures further adds to the power of the song. The latter uses the name to identify unknown persons to say that one’s appearance, status, and name should be meaningless.

Maybe they won’t quite hit the stratosphere like Radiohead because of the complexity of their music, but like that great band they create music that is challenging, meaningful, and simply brilliant.

And like Dead, WMABMT is dark at points, but melodic. It’s tense and at times even startling. However, it is also an album about hope, despite the seemingly endless stream of questions throughout the album. Kayus Bankole, Graham Hastings, and Alloysious Massaquoi’s music is complex, but it is personal and has a purpose. There isn’t a wasted word or note, echoing the similar brilliance of another soul-searching album created nearly a decade ago – the groundbreaking Return to Cookie Mountain by TV on the Radio. And like that great band, Young Fathers aren’t here to just sell records; they’re here to challenge the way we see the world around us and ourselves because every word should provoke, inspire, and be meaningful.

Get White Men Are Black Men Too at Big Dada, iTunes, and Amazon. Young Fathers is on tour. See the dates below.

Website – http://www.young-fathers.com/
Facebook – Young Fathers
Twitter – @Youngfathers

 

Young Fathers 2Photo of Young Fathers’ fathers.

TOUR DATES

APR 9TH ALLSTON, USA GREAT SCOTT TICKETS
APR 10TH NEW YORK, USA MUSIC HALL OF WILLIAMSBURG TICKETS
APR 11TH PHILADELPHIA, USA BOOT & SADDLE TICKETS
APR 12TH WASHINGTON DC, USA ROCK & ROLL HOTEL TICKETS
APR 14TH RALEIGH, USA KINGS BARCADE TICKETS
APR 15TH ATLANTA, USA THE MASQUERADE TICKETS
APR 16TH NEW ORLEANS, USA REPUBLIC NEW ORLEANS TICKETS
APR 17TH HOUSTON, USA FITZGERALD’S TICKETS
APR 18TH DALLAS, USA TREES TICKETS
APR 19TH AUSTIN, USA THE PARISH TICKETS
APR 21ST PHOENIX, USA VALLEY BAR TICKETS
APR 22ND SAN DIEGO, USA CASBAH TICKETS
APR 24TH LOS ANGELES, USA THE ECHO TICKETS
APR 25TH SAN FRANCISCO, USA THE INDEPENDENT TICKETS
APR 29TH PORTLAND, USA HOLOCENE TICKETS
APR 30TH VANCOUVER, CA FORTUNE SOUND CLUB TICKETS
MAY 1ST VICTORIA, CA DISTRIKT TICKETS
MAY 2ND SEATTLE, USA NEUMOS TICKETS
MAY 5TH BOISE, USA NEUROLUX TICKETS
MAY 6TH SALT LAKE CITY, USA URBAN LOUNGE TICKETS
MAY 7TH DENVER, USA LARIMER LOUNGE TICKETS
MAY 8TH LINCOLN, USA VEGA TICKETS
MAY 9TH MINNEAPOLIS, USA 7TH ST ENTRY TICKETS
MAY 10TH CHICAGO, USA LINCOLN HALL TICKETS
MAY 13TH ST. LOUIS, USA FIREBIRD TICKETS
MAY 14TH NASHVILLE, USA EXIT IN TICKETS
MAY 15-17 GULF SHORES, USA HANGOUT MUSIC FESTIVAL TICKETS
MAY 20TH GLASGOW, UK ART SCHOOL TICKETS
MAY 21ST NEWCASTLE, UK RIVERSIDE TICKETS
MAY 22ND LEEDS, UK BRUDENELL SOCIAL CLUB TICKETS
MAY 23RD KNOCKENGORROCH, UK WORLD CEILIDH FESTIVAL TICKETS
MAY 25TH MANCHESTER, UK GORILLA TICKETS
MAY 26TH NOTTINGHAM, UK RESCUE ROOMS TICKETS
MAY 27TH CARDIFF, UK CLWB IFOR BACH TICKETS
MAY 28TH LONDON, UK KOKO TICKETS
MAY 29TH BRIGHTON, UK THE HAUNT TICKETS
MAY 30TH SOUTHAMPTON, UK ENGINE ROOMS TICKETS
JUN 1ST GLOUCESTER, UK GUILDHALL TICKETS
JUN 2ND OXFORD, UK O2 ACADEMY 2 TICKETS
JUN 3RD BIRMINGHAM, UK HARE & HOUNDS TICKETS
JUN 4TH STOKE-ON-TRENT, UK THE SUGARMILL TICKETS
JUN 5TH NORWICH, UK NORWICH ARTS CENTRE TICKETS
JUN 6TH SHEFFIELD, UK O2 ACADEMY 2 TICKETS
JUN 7TH LIVERPOOL, UK KAZIMIER TICKETS
JUN 9TH EDINBURGH, UK CENTRAL HALL TICKETS

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