Can You Dance to Young Fathers?

Young Fathers’ newest addition to their stellar catalog is no exception—but there’s still one key question that needs to be addressed.
Can You Dance to Young Fathers?

Young Fathers’ newest addition to their stellar catalog is no exception—but there’s still one key question that needs to be addressed.

Words: Mike LeSuer

April 04, 2018

Young Fathers have made some big waves since the release of their sophomore album in 2015, which flew remarkably under the radar for having been given the incredible title White Men Are Black Men Too. In February of the following year, though, they collaborated with Massive Attack on the song “Voodoo in My Blood,” which was complemented with a to-be cult classic video starring Rosamund Pike and an unforgivable deficiency of blood and milk. Since then the song’s been immortalized by a trailer for the instantly iconic The Snowman, a modern day Jack Frost (1998) in its projected irrelevance outside of its preview’s heavy playtime preceding my frequent screenings of Quest for Camelot.

Last year, the Edinburgh trio lent a handful of fiery bangers to Danny Boyle’s T2 Trainspotting soundtrack, Boyle himself calling the kind-of-hip-hop group’s cuts from both White Men and their debut Dead—as well as the original track “Only God Knows”—“the heartbeat of the film.” The group’s always been hard to classify due to their blending of genres and cultures (two of the members’ families hail from Liberia and Nigeria, making their sound as much Fela Kuti as it is Paolo Nutini—that is, not at all), but the upbeat nature of their IMDb-listed trackography solidifies their status as a certifiably danceable ensemble.

That said, it came as a shock when they announced a forthcoming LP last November with the release of the single “Lord,” a choral jaunt notably deficient in terpsichorean instigation. As if its accompanying blood-soaked video largely comprised of a less-desirable form of physical exertion wasn’t enough to dissuade listeners otherwise, the single’s artwork clearly states beneath a very brief press release that “you can’t dance to it.” It’s unclear as to whether this is a disclaimer or a command, but one thing is certain: I am no longer sold on the fact that Young Fathers is a band you can dance to.

While the apocalyptic, war-ravished drones of their debut LP make an interesting case against their danceability, their sophomore record proved significantly more accessible. As their oddball Evangelical Western Cocoa Sugar moseys into the equation on the bootheels of two varyingly catchy singles and album artwork you definitely cannot dance to, I figured a track-by-track analysis would provide a tie-breaking answer to this burning question: Can you dance to Young Fathers?

1. “See How”
Kicking off your album with instrumental heaving and exactly zero beats dropping is a sure sign of either an undanceable album or a Trent Reznor project, and Cocoa Sugar is certainly not the latter. But there’s hope yet considering the relative tranquility of WMABMT’s opener “Still Running.”

Can you dance to “See How”?
No, you cannot dance to “See How.”

2. “Fee Fi”
By track two, Cocoa Sugar dips deep into tribal lo-fi with “Fee Fi”—perhaps danceable in some extra-discoteque settings, but the lack of bass will definitely prove problematic if attempting to choreograph moves with a partner. Certainly not honky-tonk enough for the album cover’s pining buckaroo.

Can you dance to “Fee Fi”?
No, you cannot dance to “Fee Fi.”

3. “In My View”
The second single from the album, the undeniably gyration-inviting “In My View,” was released alongside a video featuring a cowpoke-type gittin’ along to the track’s percussive feats. However, by the end of the song a title card reading “The Art of Making People Care” appears on screen, shortly followed by the text “Give Me Emotional Highs & Lows” imposed over the grooving gaucho. This seems like a self-conscious commentary on the expressive purpose of dancing to either convey total elation or absolute despair, and in the context of a music video seems like a way of pandering to an audience uncertain of how to interpret the song. But that pulsing bass…

Can you dance to “In My View”?
Yes, you most certainly can dance to “In My View,” so long as it’s not for the sake of making people care.

4. “Turn”
Despite something of a Kanye West feat. Big Sean, Pusha T, and 2 Chainz intro, “Turn” is mostly reflective of the second “t” rightfully omitted from the end of its title. Sure there’s a build-up, a drop, and a blossoming final minute, but I’d still keep the dancefloor clear for this one.

Can you dance to “Turn”?
No, you cannot dance to “Turn.”

5. “Lord”
Did you read the album cover?

Can you dance to “Lord”?
No, you reportedly cannot dance to “Lord.”

6. “Tremolo”
As can be expected from a song called “Tremolo,” track six is more focused on ambient, organ-driven repetition than soundtracking a twerk worth writing homestead about. That said, “Tremolo” is a great song to vibe to, as is much of Cocoa Sugar to this point.

Can you dance to “Tremolo”?
No, you cannot dance to “Tremolo” (but please, vibe to it in spades).

7. “Wow”
Based on the album’s cover, it’s a bit of a shock that Cocoa Sugar doesn’t get this cartoonish until we’re halfway in. “Wow” is pretty goofy, often asynchronous, and ultimately the perfect challenge to dance to, concluding in a warm humming jostled by loose piano keys, distant “Hah!”s, and repeated cries of “Ego!”—an unconventional dance number from an unconventional band.

Can you dance to “Wow”?
Yes, you can probably dance to “Wow,” and I definitely encourage you to try.

8. “Border Girl”
There’s something unique about much of Dan Deacon’s music in that your willingness to dance grows exponentially over the course of four or five minutes. Like a dream, you never know when exactly “True Thrush” or “Build Voice” begin—you’re just in it and act accordingly, in this case doing the most humiliating things possible with each of your limbs regardless of who’s watching. That is why I believe “Border Girl” is actually a Dan Deacon song.

Can you dance to “Border Girl?”
Yes, you can’t not dance to “Border Girl.”

9. “Holy Ghost”
We’ve clearly reached a tipping point here—“Holy Ghost” has something of a Kendrick thing going on and you may not tell someone they can’t dance to Kendrick.

Can you dance to “Holy Ghost”?
Yes, you can dance to “Holy Ghost” like you’ve got the titular Spectre’s fire in you.

10. “Wire”
You could probably use a glass of water.

Can you dance to “Wire”?
No, you can’t dance to “Wire,” but that probably will not stop you from moshing.

11. “Toy”
The third and latest single from Cocoa Sugar, “Toy” revisits the wonky stylings of “Wow” to a lesser degree, but with equal energy. Surely a fun track to play with if its condescending chorus doesn’t get you down.

Can you dance to “Toy”?
Yes, you can dance to “Toy” like the dancefloor is your own personal DDR pad.

12. “Picking You”
As with its opener, Cocoa Sugar closes on a note as uninspiring to dance to as it is disorienting to listen to. Yet at this point, with the context of the last thirty-some minutes, you have no control over your body, and it is probably going to continue to spasm to “Picking You”’s marriage of snare and organ as long as this thing’s going. I am sorry I even questioned this. You can most definitely dance to Cocoa Sugar and you can most definitely dance to Young Fathers.

Can you dance to “Picking You”?
Yes, you can dance to “Picking You”—you shouldn’t even need to ask. FL