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"Liberated, is that how I feel?" demand Young Fathers, and it's no rhetorical question. The Edinburgh trio's stony refusal to smile for the cameras after winning the coveted Mercury Prize last autumn was solid evidence that they're not so hot on playing the game. Beating bookies favourites Royal Blood and FKA Twigs to the prize money, the band disappeared to work on a follow-up album without waiting to help out the press clamouring for a shock-victory photo op to run alongside their baffled think-pieces. But if that wasn't proof enough, try a follow-up album with a title like White Men Are Black Men Too. Making public an email thread with band member Alloysius Massaquoi, in which he argues "it's got issues of race, and so what?" is the post-internet equivalent of nailing your flag to the mast; Young Fathers aren't here to fuck about.





That same email speaks of pure intentions, "weight with words". It's something Alloysious and band-mates Kayus Bankole and G Hastings have never shied away from - previous albums handled some pretty deep subject matter, but WMABMT forges this political bent into a weapon that's far more pointed. Cacophonous, inventive and wholly restless, it's the record of a band that's learned to hone their message. More explicit, more precise, there's a new-found restraint to Young Fathers in 2015 that wasn't there before - but don't be fooled, there's no less bite. The band's fervour and aggression is far from diluted, but it packs more punch alongside a measure of something softer, more soulful. 

For the first time, the trio's claim to be a "psychedelic boyband" seems kind of plausible. 'Mammoth', swelling pop choruses and snappy, shadowed trip-hop lay the foundations for climbing harmonies and hand-on-heart confessions. The softly-sung '27' combines crooned, haunting lyrics of murder and blasphemy with swelling, rolling lo-fi beats and Nest is built from the feeling of the sun in your eyes, with a finger-clicking bridge and choir-led chorus. 'Dare Me' begins as a classic ballad, an end-of-the-night tear jerker that - if I was in charge - I'd stage with plenty of double denim and dry ice. But, one minute in: 'Scene Change'. We're snapped back to the present with threatening urgency; don't get complacent.

'Old Rock n Roll' opens with a decidedly Scots "fuck's sake," before diving into the complications of race and identity caught up in the album's title. 'John Doe' could almost have you fooled - dancing, hands above head, imagining for all the world that you're getting down to a summer anthem complete with whistling and an irrepressible swing-beat. But, when you think about it, singing along to "call me John Doe, let the good times roll" isn't so easy, now is it? It's not that bleak writing offset by feel-good vibes is anything new; it's more that Young Fathers pull it off with such sincere, unblinking aplomb. They're the kind of band who can fill songs with directives, "simmer down", "don't hesitate", "don't run away" and it actually works. If music is meant to incite, to question, to spark a reaction and leave the listener a little different for the listening, then Young Fathers have got it on lock. 

In short, there's zero chance of this band ever being hauled in front of a copyright court; Young Fathers are unassuming leaders of the pack when it comes to visionary, fearless avant-hiphop - or whatever commercial necessity will have us label this genre-fuck. A kaleidoscope of soul, rock'n'roll, pop, choir-led choruses and that weird feel of a carousel winding down which seems to be becoming the band's trademark, WMABMT is eerie but inviting, abstract but still overwhelmingly celebratory.

Genuine, life-affirming innovation is hard to come by, but you recognise it when it asks more questions than it gives answers. I challenge you to find an album that's less intended for straight-up consumption; White Men Are Black Men Too demands you get out from behind your computer screen, start a proper conversation, and then dance until the world makes a bit more sense.

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