I could fill the opening lines here with complaint after obtuse complaint but why bother? No one wants to hear or read that. We suffer through constant trauma day in and out but we persevere right? Of course. The only option you’re left with is to lay down and simply die. I’ve heard it time and time again from friends, co-workers, and individuals waiting on lines during crowded lunch rushes. Why bother? Sometimes I imagine myself going up to someone, standing right in front of them, grabbing them by the shoulders and shaking, “WTF man, snap out of it!” But I don’t. I simply go about my business because really, it’s none of mine. I could make a suggestion on something that always helps me, but I don’t think everyone might fancy throwing on A Tribe Called Quest. But everyone should. Just sayin’.
Young Fathers, made up of Alloysious Massaquoi, Graham ‘G’ Hastings and Kayus Bankole, just released its Cocoa Sugar (Ninja Tune), and the trio has had a buzz about it for quite some time. The group isn’t new to the game here, debuting with its 2014 Mercury Prize-winning Dead, and later following that up with the sophomore White Men Are Black Men Too. Blah, blah, blah. What does this all mean and why should anyone care? I’m certainly glad you asked that question because this album seems to do something many artists haven’t done in some time; make you wonder “What the hell are they’re doing here?” Initially, the tracks seem to flow in what seems like aimless directions, but you have to wonder if that’s the reaction the Young Fathers want to have listeners believing. But it’s not the case. While musical comparisons are close to nil, sonically, you, like myself, may be reminded of an NY outfit that may or may not have a “T.V.” or “Radio” in its name. Again, the similarities are sparse and while both groups may live on the same spectrum, they’re residing on opposite ends. On Cocoa Sugar, the three Englishmen combine their own art of noise with Hip-Hop, R&B, and Caribbean vibes, loosely combining the genres into sonic sculptures only they know which direction its headed to.
Cocoa Sugar opens with a meandering beat on “See How” which makes listeners believe it’s going to explode from the get-go, instead lulling winding rhythm that repeats itself throughout with lush and vibrant overlapping vocals, panning from left to right. They’re not averse to including slower-drawling tribal drum patterns like on “Fee Fi,” where instrumentation is sometimes sparse, creating space all around, even where there’s movement. As soon as the track starts, it soon ends and “In My View” begins. The strange intonation of bassline is infectious over that watery beat and glorious vocal delivery that’s bound to embed itself in multiple consciousnesses until the proverbial wheels fall off of it. Now, many songs don’t seem to move past a mid-tempo rhythm but that’s fine as with the slower pace on songs with a full choir-like backdrop, “Lord,” and bizarrely trembling “Tremolo,” it seems to work in the band’s favor. Obviously, I’m completely ok with it, and the organ work on “Tremolo”? It’s completely hypnotic! That’s not to say the Young Fathers are incapable of blowing hinges off doors because of songs like “Wow” rattle with controlled abandon. Or “Toy” which is a crazed and frantically paced track which encompasses the sound of worlds colliding. Let’s not forget “Wire” with its drum pattern that doesn’t allow anyone to come up for a moment of air. The group has more than a few tricks up its sleeves though because “Border Girl” shows the band’s spacey funk influence with a Bootsie-ish bass drive and Cliton-esque opening vocal work. All this before transforming it into a pop song of epic proportion with a wall of harmonizing vocals in the background. But! And I must exclaim, “Holy Ghost” is the piece of sheer majesty! Odd key lines, with lyrical braggadocio but how else are you supposed to talk about having “the Holy Ghost fire in me!” It’s the only way to go.
There’s a lot of emotional tension wrapped around Cocoa Sugar, and it’s handled in different ways to varying degrees. But one thing is sure to be mentioned of when discussing Young Father’s new album. Is it too soon to use the word “genius” when referring to them? I’m willing to go with that.