Though the Mercury Prize has the potential to fast-track winners to mainstream stardom, that was never going to be the fate of Young Fathers, following Dead‘s triumph in 2014.
Politically-conscious and proud to shun the right-wing press, the Edinburgh group were too principled – and too uncompromising in their abrasive creative vision – to take shortcuts. Instead of basking in the glory, their default response was to head straight back into the studio to record White Men Are Black Men Too, an incendiary second album that received rave reviews and won them influential collaborators in Massive Attack and Danny Boyle.
Three years on, Alloysious Massaquoi, Graham ‘G’ Hastings and Kayus Bankole are clearly no keener to convert casual listeners by making concessions to their art. Cocoa Sugar is every bit as stylistically unclassifiable and lyrically barbed as its predecessors, and yet the trio have finessed the aggressive cacophony to create arguably their most potent and energetic set yet.
There’s often an unsettling sparseness to production, as a minimal synth motif mixes with hip hop beats on ‘Holy Ghost’, or clattering percussion and discordant piano compete with layered chants for prominence on ‘Fee Fi’. And yet from the left-field, Young Fathers have summoned an abundance of bittersweet pop hooks, be it the melancholic bounce of ‘In My View’ or the shimmying digi-funk of ‘Border Girl’. On form this blistering, they’re in real danger of crossing over on their own terms.
Live: Roundhouse on March 21st