Contradiction is the most fascinating thing about Young Fathers. On stage they’re a riot barely contained, but when winning awards they mope around and shoot daggers at the press; “What do you expect us to be doing, jumping around?” For the past few years they’ve been the proteges of Massive Attack, crafting material and touring together. The Edinburgh trio fascinated the trip-hop veterans just like everyone else, because they represent the undefinable, a near impossible thing in 2018. Hip-hop might be their bedrock but Young Fathers are borderless, all three snarling and crooning with the intensity of bloody-nosed punks and the joy of soul singers.
For album three Cocoa Sugar, it’s laughable that Young Fathers set out to make a “linear” album with; everything about the trio rejects normal procedure. Opener ‘Wire’ is a sharp jolt of desecrated gospel, primer for the chaos to follow. The group contort, thrash and dance over bone-rattling krautrock and machine drones, driving themselves into a frenzy on the propulsive ‘Rain or Shine’. Familiar songs shape-shift in a live setting, with freestyles spat like sermons by Kayus Bankole, livewire of the group who conducts himself like a maniacal preacher.
Bold silhouettes against a backdrop soaked in LED rays, the trio have no ringleader, moving with the kind of single-minded coordination that can only come from a decade performing together. Embodying the group’s hostile public image, Graham Hastings stalks the shadows at side-of-stage, weaponizing the tangled wires of his analogue synth to produce monstrous tears in sound on ‘Queen Is Dead’. ‘In My View’ is solemn and muscular, yet in rejection of the masculine, probing wounds and human fallibility. Consumed by rage but longing for change, Young Fathers are a dance party for the end of the world.
See our pictures from Young Fathers’ Manchester show over here.