Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Young Fathers

  • Tape One [Anticon, 2012] **
  • Tape Two [Anticon, 2013] A-
  • Dead [Anticon, 2014] A-
  • White Men Are Black Men Too [Big Dada, 2015] A-
  • Cocoa Sugar [Ninja Tune, 2018] **

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Tape One [Anticon, 2012]
Compositionally, one crucial twist short of what they have in them ("Romance," "Rumbling") **

Tape Two [Anticon, 2013]
Say these three Scots--rapper-singers African-born blacks, beatmaker white Edinburgh native--cross Shabazz Palaces and Tricky, only they're dirtier sonically than either, and also more emotional, energetic, even tuneful. Noticing the range of such fundamentally grim lines as "Inside I'm feelin' dirty/It's only 'cause I'm hurtin'," "Work your life don't know why," "She's looking for love/She's looking for trouble/In the wrong places," "She couldn't give a fuck if the exchange rate's down," you'll soon feel how all those slight musical differentials hoist the group's collective spirit, and how courageously the music's depressive candor strengthens their will to be alive. "We can unite ourselves"? I wouldn't bet on it. But a stirring effect regardless. A-

Dead [Anticon, 2014]
As a U.S. admirer of this interracial Scottish hip-hop trio's brave, dour Tape Two EP, I was bummed by the diminished lyricism of their proper debut until its 2014 Mercury Prize got my attention. The album is indeed different--chanted unison and solo more than rapped, tribal in feeling at times, with beatmaker G Hastings making like a fucked-up in vitro synth-rock band. But insofar as I can decipher their intent, now I'm bummed the way they want me to be, as the songs that surface one by one make me worry about the state of their world, and of mine. A-

White Men Are Black Men Too [Big Dada, 2015]
I don't know what the title means either, and I doubt they do. "Poor lives matter"? "After all, our beatmaker is white"? "We never ever want to think about racism again"? But note that when they utter the title during "Old Rock n Roll," there's a "some" in front. Note too that said beatmaker has progressed in his quest to invent some new rock n roll. Note that the vocalists are in on the project. Note that in "John Doe" they repeat and repeat "Laissez les bon temps roulez" with a disquiet that splits the difference between street fair and wailing wall. A-

Cocoa Sugar [Ninja Tune, 2018]
Alt-rock success anxiety disorder generates its first Afro-Scottish variant ("Wow," "Tremolo") **