If you’d told me in advance that I’d be riveted by an ‘alternative hip hop collective’ I’d have been dubious, but there we have it. Young Fathers are Kayus Bankole, Graham Hastings, Alloysious Massaquoi. From Edinburgh, by way of Nigeria and Liberia, with synchronised dance moves,and voices that’ll make me appear really old by making comparisons to 70’s soul and motown classics. They left a haunting impression. Bizarrely it did not feel by any stretch like an odd pairing with the electro headliners; instead it made me hark back to the times when reggae (of which there were massive hints in tonight’s set) was the natural and expected opening music for punk gigs. To quote my friend Cal “their energy on stage was a sight to behold”.
Chvrches I’m already in deep with. I’ve been besotted with ‘Mother We Share’ since it came out, and seeing them twice in one day at this year’s SXSW only made it worse. I’m not alone. Right at this moment there’s a copy of the original vinyl 500-run 10″ of that very track on eBay for a buy-it-now price of £399.99. No, I haven’t bid on it.
Perhaps a more realistic indicator is that both the current and last set of UK gigs have been sold out to the hilt. It’s odd in some ways, given that they’ve got so little music out there to buy – one EP if you discount that now very rare vinyl.
There was even some suspicion when they first tumbled onto the scene that they were playing 2012’s trick of the year by withholding information to maintain an air of mystery. A ridiculous idea when there’s no secret about Martyn previously being in Twilight Sad, Iain in Aereogramme and Lauren in niche folk-rockers Blue Sky Archives. In these days of complex and intertwining collaborations, it’s hardly remarkable, especially in the tight music scene north of the border. What is astounding is just how exponentially their coming together in Chvrches has sharply focussed their talents in the cross hairs.
Tonight, Manchester’s Sound Control was exactly the right size and temperature to pressure cook the mood into sweaty euphoria. You can (if you must call) their music synthpop. It is, but such a description totally fails to convey the brood and percussive intensity. Think ‘laser strobes turned into sound’. Lauren does (and I suspect always will) suffer by dint of being a twee girl, with all the public perception that goes with that. She addressed that head-on in the Guardian a few months ago, saying “We never wanted to be two producers and a girl who wears some shoes”. Trust me, that is so not the case. Tonight, as in the other gigs I’ve seen, she was sparky, liberally taking the piss out of Martin’s moment in the sun when he fronted one song. She was the same in Austin, warning us against any sudden unconscious temptation to buy the products being touted by the very shoe makers on whose stage she was standing.
That a lot of the key programming is Lauren’s voiced sampled is momentarily disconcerting – the guys can ‘play’ her even when she’s wandered off. It’s magic, or science; one of the two. The only aspect that still leaves me a little non-plussed is that song that Martin fronts. It’s nice and all, but I’m not entirely sure he’s the guy we’ve come to hear.
They play ‘Recover’ and ‘Mother We Share’ late in the set before going off and reappearing, Lauren musing from the stage about whether the whole idea of an encore is a conceit on their part. They played out with one song, that being their cover of Prince’s ‘I Would Die For V’ (see what they did there?)
That there are only maybe four songs that you might have heard on radio sessions doesn’t in any way affect the instinctive feeling of familiarity. Alongside any feelings of coziness, it’s heady and exhilarating stuff. The crowd are not yet at the stage of chanting every word back, but there’s clearly a lot of love for them in the room; the strange sight of indie-bloke gig-goers, who would on any other occasion be rooted to the spot gazing at their shoes, tonight dancing in the third row.
Young Fathers : ———