Released into the heat swells of last summer, Young Fathers’ first new music in four years was a perfect point of re-entry. ‘Geronimo’ had braggadocio and submission in equal parts, hook-heavy and self-described as “tenderness in toil”, the product of their searching in the dark for familiarity and inspiration as they remembered how to make music worthy of their discography to date. The eureka moment can be heard, cutting through the track’s ambience, exultant: “I’m on the verge of something divine that’s gonna keep me in line.”
The Edinburgh trio have covered a career’s worth of substance and style since their decade-old debut mixtapes. Followed by a Mercury Prize-winning debut album, its universally acclaimed follow-up and a Scottish Album of the Year-winning third, the band’s cultural significance needs to be reinstated – in the simplest terms – as generational pop stars. Not, as some would have it, simply an experimental hip-hop group breaking conventions by not always rapping.
The bass grooves circling ‘I Saw’ map the alt-indie tribal incantations of Wild Beasts, while Kraftwerk lurks below the kinetic afrobeat of ‘Drum’. In context, ‘Geronimo’ and ‘Tell Somebody’ are over-extended interludes or meditating sample-packs. Carouselling through neo-soul, electropop, granite-smooth R&B and divergent hip-hop with alarming conviction, Heavy Heavy perhaps most strikingly pulls the band members’ Nigerian and Liberian heritage into sharper focus, twisting worlds of sound into an immersive pileup of hi-fi foot-tappers.
Beautifully bookended by comparatively light-hearted Naija pop gems ‘Rice’ and ‘Be Your Lady’, the album’s outro gleefully swarms with voices cheering for space: “Can I take ten pounds worth of loving out of the bank please!” ‘Ululation’, too, is to-the-name jubilation. It makes a dazzling whole. There’s human sincerity in their wistful but major-key elation and heartache in its yearning; a brilliant return from a gold-standard band in UK music.