young fathers 2012

Waking up, one might be wondering these days: What generation am I part of? What kind of generation is it? What do I want it to be? What are its frames and who is to blame for the constant haziness in the picture? Questions of this kind are naturally hard to really conclude on, so one may find himself yawning and wishing to go back to sleep. Gladly sometimes, a band comes around and – once again proving that music has everything that words will always be lacking – throws answers right into your face.

So did YOUNG FATHERS with their latest album Dead. It is the Edinburgh-based trio’s follow-up to Tape Two, their first full-length and third (mini-)album overall. It continues their unique way of taking the very core of hip hop and highly experimentally extending it widely on various influences. It was released by Anticon.

Dead lives of constant transition, changes and contrasts which might be roughly summarized by the rule: Indicate pop and bait by melodies, then fade into rougher fields when no one’s expecting.

This creates the base for the lyrics to actually reveal their intensity. YOUNG FATHERS are part of a recent pop- and youth culture, so are those who listen to their music, so are those writing about it and so are those then reading what has been written. This culture is just a little piece of a bigger present state of a world system, complex to a point never reached before. Dead shows countless scenes out of this world, not necessarily explicit but rather abstract, being political without creating manifestos. Smartly it plants images that may not be sharply lined but as scary as precise though. The album smartly pictures all the deaths in a dark and louring world that have been died already whilst society pretends to be living – a world that consists of illusions, of blindness, religions, consumerism and what is left of humanity in between.

The first single, LOW, knows playful childish glockenspiel, pop-melodies contrasted by the absolute energy of the voices and sparkling cynicism: ‘Mmm, did I see you planting seeds in the forest / Is it for the green of the dollars / Now don’t go telling me it’s for the need of the poorest / Now Imma take a shit in your palace / I just want to make life easy on your eyes / You just want to ease me with your life’. The voices add smoothly and range from gnarling rap and hollow, soft whispers to soulish singing and strained calls. The repeated waves of energy breaking out of the song drag you right into the anger, then confuse with the cuteness of melodies when falling back into calmer parts. They end in a joint call, topping up the feeling created before, giving it a direction: ‘Time to get going / city’s getting low’.

All songs are produced rather minimalistic, on a small number of sounds and instruments in the samples, that tend to be as bizarre as cranky. WAR takes almost a minute to finally drop into a beat, before the rhythm and dynamic is based on the speaking itself. It doesn’t take much more than simple claps and some resonant, wild choir from the distant to be complete.

Influences range from R’n’B to Coldwave. A slight de-tune covers the whole album, dissonance is common and on first glimpse the whole thing seems a little torn into pieces, just to melt together the more often it is heard.

The further Dead proceeds, the darker it seems to become. Angry tracks like Paying, highly fractured and dissonant, carry a strange calm that in no way suggests peace: ‘gate crash the ivory tower / lay back and join the flowers / girls dance even in the last hour / fever pitch’.

Mmmh Mmmh hovers on melancholic, dystopic layers of gnarling synths in the coldest mood.

Am I not your boy finally breaks this with irrational calls of desperation. Sung in a way that distantly reminds of classic soul, the lyrics once again can stand for the whole feeling: ‘Being good ain’t enough lately / I ain’t got the strength to save me / Can’t figure what got me here / I don’t want to preach alone / It’s easy to disappear / But mother I’m good as gold / Am I not your boy / your child / the kid that I once was / is dead’

Theres a theoretical weirdness in the contrast of the groups lyrics, not at last blaming a bling society living on the ivory tower’s illusion, performing in front of a super hip audience in one of the hippest locations on the planet – on stage at Berlin’s Bergain/Kantine. The actual situation solved the contradiction though. YOUNG FATHERS simply turned the whole scene around by piercingly staring at the audience in rather long, breathing and wordless pauses between the songs. Searching for something they screened the expectant faces in front of them, making themselves the audience of the audience. Their sincere expression could strike you as criticism, as if they were asking, why anyone would dance on all the horror they were shouting out. Cynicism filled any gesture of the trio, accompanied by a live-drummer hitting highly trashed cymbals, perfectly complecting the scene in an authentic, earthy garage-sound.

Taking a good look at it the situation is highly sensitive. Wouldn’t a group soon be accused of selling out if it was willingly letting its music be consumed by what it is criticizing and become part of the illusion?

The show’s last song was Get Up, the one dance floor-hit on Dead. Absolutely catchy from the beginning an with rare rhythmic continuity it definitely urges to dance. The hook line ‘Come here and do the right thing / get up and have a party’ can be misleadingly happy and simple when paying no attention to the verse-lyrics (such as: ‘Got no past, no future, fumbling through the ether / … / When I get down to this I’m the catalyst / For a revolution’).

Young fathers nevertheless broke into a wild dance on stage, that looked so awkward from the beginning and was underlined by the suddenly campy looks on their faces that it seemed to be a caricature on the dancing audience itself.

YOUNG FATHERS seem to have found a way of playing in front of even a highly consuming, culture-swallowing but non-digesting generation that fits all they picture and blame. At least has symbols of their refusal of becoming consumed in the meta modern way were visible.

None of this is but interpretation – anyway. But if this isn’t allowed anymore, what worth lies in pop but the reproduction of empty consume and illusion. Get back to content. Get up.

Listen To YOUNG FATHERS‘ latest album Dead