Young Fathers – Heavy Heavy

A brilliant return riddled with new ideas and a fresh purpose...

Something you notice when you see any promotional photographs of Young Fathers – high-school friends Alloysious, G and Kayus – is that they are always close – always touching, always connected, hands on shoulders or embracing. It’s a striking assertion from the band; andthat togetherness is an attitude that is echoed throughout their work. Lyrically and musically, it’s always felt like they have a ‘purpose’, that they’ve driven each other to push their own limits, and the boundaries of their craft. Critical acclaim has followed – one Mercury win and two Scottish Album of the Year Awards – but you get the feeling that awards don’t matter too much for the Edinburgh trio, it’s about something bigger.

For the recording of ‘Heavy Heavy’, the follow up to 2018’s lauded ‘Cocoa Sugar’, Young Fathers retreated to their basement studio, just them and their equipment, an assortment of instruments and production gear, everything plugged in, turned on, ready to create what needed to be created. It’s a ploy that worked; the work here feels fresh, as vital as anything they’ve done previously, with a poise of a group who are comfortable in their own skin. 

Musically, it’s more both percussive and more ambient than anything they’ve done before – opening trio ‘Rice’, ‘I Saw’ and ‘Drum’ are all powerfully driven by grinding beats, pulsing with urgency. Rice is a vital piece of celebratory joy; Young Fathers sound almost evangelical in their jubilant triumph, while harmonica riffs vamp away in the background. ‘I Saw’ is spikier; “I want your shield, I want your weapon, give me that bulletproof vest” they demand over post-punk beats, before building to a crescendo of joyous chanting. Drum is then another invocation to get primal with them; “Hear the beat of the drums and go numb, have fun, go on…”

‘Heavy Heavy’ then moves into a second movement of sorts – ‘Tell Someone’ is three minutes of blissed-out ambience, before the plaintive yet soulful and optimistic ‘Geronimo’, the reflective heart of the record, contemplates “I’m on the verge of something divine that’s gonna keep me in line…” ‘Ululation’, a beautiful homage to African roots, embraces Zulu language over a woozy but exuberant and almost folky instrumental, before the record’s final trio of tracks return to the vibrant urgency of before.

Throughout the album, as they have done on previous records, Young Fathers maintain a lyrically ambiguity that allows them to directly address political and social issues – “A bad seed, A rotten apple, Take out the rubbish, Buried in between justice…” Kayus calls out on ‘I Saw’ – while allowing each track to also feel like a more general appraisal of the self; Young Fathers are here to examine themselves as much as society, to embrace self-improvement and self-acceptance in the context of a decaying world. 

‘Heavy Heavy’ sees them fully marry their two sides; is this a very fun album from a very serious band, or a very serious album from a very fun band? Why not both? Young Fathers can have it both ways. ‘Heavy Heavy’ is a stubborn challenge to have fun to despite everything around us; a resolute dance through gritted teeth, an acknowledgement that while the world crumbles, we can stand firm, still love, still dance, still sweat, and still be good to each other. 


Words: David Weaver

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