Having recently released their debut album, DEAD, after two mixtapes, Tape One and Tape Two, Young Fathers are now on tour both in the UK and Europe. I was lucky enough to catch them at Green Door Store last night with support from Law and they certainly lived up to my high expectations.
Young Fathers are a Scottish trio, made up of members Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and Graham Hastings, who have been working together since their early teens. Impossible to pigeon-hole, they have been variously described as a “Liberian/Nigerian/Scottish psychedelic hip-hop electro boy band” and “on their own original island thrown up by a pop volcano, tectonic plates of genres rubbing up against each other like under-sea dirty party-people; seams of molten pop history spewing lava more fertile than guano, upon which the rich foliage of hook, rhythm and bass grow immodestly in the sun.” The Guardian bestowed the album with 4/5 stars, accurately stating that Young Fathers have “quietly constructed a strange and intoxicating musical universe that feels entirely their own.” Comparisons have been drawn with the likes of Massive Attack and Tricky, but fundamentally Young Fathers have created and cultivated their own sound, unlike any other.
Law was an almost alien presence on the stage and felt strangely disconnected from her audience. Looking a bit like Skin from Skunk Anansie and sounding a bit like Heather Small from M People, she was certainly unique, but I was left a little perplexed by her moody performance. I enjoyed her vocals more on War, the one track she collaborated with Young Fathers on.
With two of the three members standing with their backs to the audience in the furthest corners of the stage, Alloysious Massaquoi stood centre-stage, glaring at the crowd, while the heavy, African-style drum beats filled the room. The first track Deadline from Tape One, gradually built up to fever pitch and the scene was set for a high-octane, frenetic performance. With strong vocals from all three guys, each different, but complimentary, they blended a mixture of styles from rap/spoken word to rich, smooth singing. Adding to the overall entertainment, all three moved around the stage and interacted with each other, revealing the close connection they obviously share. Most entertaining of all was the chest-thrusting, headbanging posturing of Kayus Bankole, reminiscent of tribal, African dance moves and perfectly suited to the rhythms.
Stand-out tracks included the irresistibly infectious Get Up, which incites the listener to ‘Come here and do the right thing, Get up and have a party,’ arguably the most poppy, accessible track on the album, this has been getting recent airplay on BBC 6 Music; The Queen is Dead from Tape Two with it’s anarchic, punk-like declaration set to swirling, psychedelic synths and Low from Dead with its almost nursery rhyme-like melody sending the listener into a hypnotic reverie. The final track, I Heard, left the appreciative crowd chanting ‘Inside I’m feeling dirty, It’s only ‘cos I’m hurting.’ I can’t think of any other act I’ve seen that has had the audience still singing the lyrics as they walked off stage, which is testament to how engaging their live performance was and how much it resonated with their listeners. In short, these guys are the best thing to come out of Scotland since Cock-a-Leekie soup!
Listen to DEAD over at Pigeons and Planes: http://http://pigeonsandplanes.com/2014/01/stream-experimental-rap-group-young-fathers-dead-lp/