Young Fathers

Cocoa Sugar

Ninja Tune

It's hard to believe that over seven years ago Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole, Graham "G" Hastings were being talked about as a 'boy band', even a [shudder] "sexier JLS".

As teenagers Ali, Graham and Kayus, who met at an under-16s hip-hop night in Edinburgh and began honing their art at open mic's, may have had the moves but there was always more to them than throwaway bubblegum hip hop-influenced pop.

Throw forward to 2013 and their second EP Tape Two revealed a genre-bending style that they have run and run with mashing elements of black music, from hip-hop to soul to Afro-pop and even reggae with punk, indie and electronic.


They won the Mercury Prize for their outstanding proper debut album Dead the following year, but it could be argued Tape Two which took the Scottish Album of the Year award was their more eye-opening opus.

Since then assisted by magically charismatic live performances, the trio have gone from strength to strength, twisting and developing what has become 'their sound' with a generous use of cute FX and old school and new school electronics.

It would be lazy to say they are Scotland's answer to Massive Attack who they neatly collaborated with on the captivating Voodoo In The Blood, because a delve into their DNA reveals that there is much more going on.

In 2018 Young Fathers are not a household name [yet] so while only tweaking the recipe of their trademark sound they will remain eye-openers to the uninitiated.

They open with See How which begins like a mad gospel-infused Michael Jackson and just as you think it's safe in comes a tunefully dislocated riff that sounds like a violin played with a water pipe. After barely two minutes, not for the first time on their third proper album, they split leaving you gagging for more.

There are more obvious themes surrounding religion, death and mortality this time round albeit with a deliberately obscure viewpoint, both through some of the gospel flavours in the music, but also in their messaging.

A blend of tribal beats and a pumping Young Fathers bassline turn one of the most instantly obvious standouts In My View into an intoxicating anthem.

If you think they can't get any finer, Turn's standout singalong nectar smacks you in the face and says, "no chance".

The choral textures of the likes of Lord, which was released last year, are a stout aural treat.

If there are slight irritations about the trio is that they occasionally trot out drunken lyrical conundrums straight out of the Eric Cantona school of philosophy. On Lord they sing: "If wishes were horses then beggars will ride. This is my cross to bear."

It is a churlish point, perhaps, because what the likes of the heady Border Girl do is grab hold through passionate dynamism and a cute notion for a big tune, with this built on a layer of euphoric "ahs" and a pulsating bass. The hook is definitely king.

The throbbingly catchy two-and-half minutes of Holy Ghost, may be a dig at religious obsession with Bankole rasping:"I've got the holy ghost fire in me, dancing in hell, you could call it blasphemy." Cocoa Sugar is neither one thing nor the other, bitter and sweet, and revels in an infusion of discordant uncertainty.

READ MORE: "We do not belong in any musical genre" - an interview and review of the band in 2014

The electro-infused Wow, seemingly dripping in irony announces,"what a time to be alive, I'm gonna put myself first, everything is so amazing".

The manic Toy is an unsettling, seething three minutes in which they declare, 'you're just a broken little toy, you silly little boy" but it is underpinned by a seductively corrupted funk riff that comes over like a speeded-up convolution of the hook from Coming Up, the 1980 hit by Paul McCartney.

By the time we get to the dramatic conclusion in the divine Picking You the trio nail the abstract on all things God or Allah. While "I only go to church when someone dies", we also discover "you'll never find your way to heaven, but you can follow me".

All this and they could even afford to leave out the 2017 single Only God (yes, him again) Knows which was written for the Trainspotting T2 film.

This difficult third album took longer to ferment than the rest, it seems, and is as a fine a concoction as they have completed to date. The cream of Scotland have created another very special brew.

Released: March 9