On strict tip-toeing instructions Getintothis’ Jamie Bowman crept his way into Skelmersdale Library for a night of… award winning hip-hop?
As new towns go Skelmersdale is up there with the worst of them. A Ballardian nightmare of roundabouts, concrete and unemployment, it’s a rare stop on the rock n roll route map which makes tonight’s slightly surreal show all the more special.
Walking up the steps of Skelmersdale library’s modernist entrance hall, punters are greeted with a trestle table selling cans of lemonade and the sight of Macclesfield new wavers Hot Vestry playing in between the book shelves. An interesting bunch, Hot Vestry suit Skem’s early eighties feel down to the ground with their Peter Hook basslines and stabs of Magazine-esque synth. Definitely worthy of more investigation.
Following a quick look at the ‘books for sale’ section downstairs, we hurry back through the pleasingly diverse crowd now full of families and students from the college next door, and wait for 2014 Mercury Music Prize winners Young Fathers.
Difficult to pin down, it sounds too simple to describe Young Fathers as an ‘Edinburgh hip-hop trio’, such is their sheer eclecticism let alone the brooding sense of menace which radiates from the stage.
The crowd are captivated from the off as Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and Graham ‘G’ Hastings synchronize both rhymes and dance moves backed with the brutal military style drumming of Steven Morrison. By just the second song the threesome are tight around the mic spitting out the lyrics to Queen Is Dead with an agitated intensity.
Once you’ve taken all that in, the tunes themselves hit you; all three vocalists swap from rapping to singing with ease and consequently each track seems to be full of genuine pop nouse as choruses emerge from the woozy mix of electro bleeps and distorted keyboards.
Get Up is surely the huge hit in waiting. Urgent and taut, it gallops along on the back of a whole gamut of strange noises and surreal lyrics (“Taking off my clothes at the lido / All I got is my decadent credo”) before exploding into a joyous party anthem of a chorus.
Just Another Bullet seems like a nod to Massaquoi and Bankole’s African heritage with its tribal chanting and almost Marvin Gaye-esque crooning from Massaquoi who looks every inch the preacher with his beard and tunic.
The freewheeling spirit of previous Brit hop heroes like Massive Attack and especially Maxinquaye-era Tricky is ever present but really what Young Fathers have created here is utterly unique and vital.
As they leave the stage without a word (between song patter is a strict no no) accompanied by a phalanx of white noise and pounding drums, we’re tempted to suggest it’s like Outkast fronting Adam and The Ants but any such trite classifications don’t really do them justice.
For once, the Mercury judges got it right and tonight, in Skem library of all places, Young Fathers proved their success is well overdue.
Photos by Getintothis’ Simon Lewis.