Brockhampton: The Family/TM albums review - plenty to unpick in the first, but better flows in the second

 (Brockhampton)
(Brockhampton)

Brockhampton never played by the rules, so it’s understandable that the Texan hip hop collective’s farewell should be as messy and confusing as their all too brief existence. They proudly called themselves a “boy band” and included a web designer, a photographer, an Irishman, and most extraordinarily for American rap, an out gay man among their 13 full-time members. Between 2017 and 2019 they released five albums, setting out their stall as America’s fastest-moving, most exciting new group.

But herding that many people towards a singular creative vision seems to have been too much for lead member Kevin Abstract. The band announced an indefinite hiatus in January, played a final festival set at Coachella in April, and set a date for a farewell album, The Family (★★★), for last weekend.

As ever, things became more complicated than that. There was one more gig last Saturday in Los Angeles, this week there have been three live radio shows titled I Miss the Band Already, and the day after The Family they released a final-final album, called TM (★★★★). The latter is the place to go to hear the whole collective trading verses. Abstract, Matt Champion, Merlyn Wood and Dom McLennon all take a thrilling spin around the jerky guitar and alien synths of New Shoes. There’s more singing here and a more relaxed feel, even when the beats take off on the romantic R&B of Man on the Moon. The piano chords get looser and looser until a wonderful climax on Crucify Me.

 (Brockhampton)
(Brockhampton)

The Family, however, is the place to go for the whole Brockhampton story, albeit from one man’s perspective. Abstract’s is pretty much the only voice on the record, setting himself up already for the highest profile solo career. The melodic pop of All That looks fondly at the group’s early days before taking a nasty turn in the second verse: “Too much trauma for me to be at my highest/I missed Ameer so me and Dom kept fighting," he raps, referring to Ameer Vann’s departure from the band following sexual abuse allegations (which he denied).

Over the Seventies soul of the title track he sounds frustrated with his bandmates and reminds himself: “Kevin don’t forget you’re alone.” However, by the time we get to a final song, simply titled Brockhampton, he has encouraging things to say to all of them. There’s plenty of intrigue here for gossipy fans to dissect, but for those who simply want to hear a great group in fine flow, TM is the better bet.

Question Everything/RCA