Release Date: Jun 2, 2015
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Current touring buddies of Matador label-mates Interpol, Algiers serve notice here with a debut album of brooding, almost malevolent intensity, that they have the potential to emulate, and perhaps even surpass, the success of their more illustrious forebears. Seriously. There is that much potential in this self-titled debut album. You may very well scoff.
When a band emerges with a name that makes reference to an “anti-colonial struggle”, it’s apparent they’ve something to say. Listen to any group with politically aware, highly intellectual and philosophical beliefs for too long, however, and you begin to wonder why you listened to them in the first place; it’s all about the music, right? Not in the case of Atlanta’s Algiers it isn’t. The most anarchic form of music to ever represent deep-rooted feelings and angst is unequivocally punk, but when you marry that with an unlikely companion such as gospel then a whole new world of opportunity opens itself, and that’s what Algiers appear to have done for their extraordinarily powerful, self-titled debut.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. What do you get when you cross Southern Gothic-tinged gospel music with the immediacy of racially fuelled, Communist-imbued punk? Until recently, there likely was not an answer to this question, you had your choice of one or the other. Enter Algiers. Born out of the strenuous racial and political divides of the American South, this biracial trio has made swift strides toward sending their highly political music into the mainstream, including signing with Matador Records and touring with Interpol.
Aggressive music is all about catharsis, but it’s very rare that it has a purpose beyond that. Very often, aggression seems like the end in of itself for musicians, little more than just an expression of rage for its own sake. When that rage has a purpose, though, it can lead to some powerful moments. Algiers have rage and aggression to spare, but there’s a higher point to their anger.
Algiers is a transcontinental trio of multi-instrumentalists who first came together in Atlanta in 2009 before moving to separate places and continuing to make music via the internet. Matador signed them after two striking independently issued singles. Algiers' sound is rife with references that smear together in a soundscape that reasserts (not recombines) musical traditions in a visceral, militant, spiritual way: the striated post-punk of a Certain Ratio, the agit-prop funk attack of the Pop Group, angular, elastic guitar screes à la Gang of Four, the pulsing industrial crunch of Suicide, the hard psychedelic soul of the Temptations, raw Georgia gospel circa the Elders of Zion, John Lee Hooker's early boogie, and the lonesome wails of chain gangs and field hollers.
Algiers are a heavy band, though not so much in sound as in effect—they’re getting shit off their chest and piling it directly onto yours. Raised in the American South, they personify the foot-stomped physicality, call-and-response communiques, and outsized oration of the church, but their music is the anti-gospel. Rather than promote uplift, out-of-body ecstasy, and communion with the heavens, Algiers weigh you down with the burden of American history, a despair born of centuries of systemic oppression, and the soul-crushing futility of hoping for a change that never comes.
Ferocious post-punk with a wild gospel tinge and fueled by a seething, political current. Vocalist Franklin James Fisher sings and barks like a snake-handling pastor; the mangled guitar tones and jittery rhythms match him with their thrilling, dangerous feel. One of the rare new acts with a truly original sound. (www.algierstheband.com) .
The debut album by Algiers, who formed in Atlanta and currently reside in London and New York, exemplifies the difference between ‘influenced by’ and ‘sounds like’. The trio’s lionising of free jazz (Peter Brötzmann), no wave (DNA) and rap (Public Enemy) prepares you for a noisy barrage. In fact, ‘Algiers’ is often akin to a more abrasive UNKLE album: full of lung-busting gospel vocals, drum machines and scrawly goth guitar.
A quick glance at Algiers’ website should tell you all you need to know about the context from which this debut album emerges. Images of and quotes on colonialism, apartheid, racism and injustice fill the screen - it’s these which provide the backdrop to Algiers’ gospel-led take on post-punk and industrial electronica. Given the uncertain, fragile manner in which racial-relations find themselves in their native USA, ‘Algiers’ finds itself arriving at the perfect time to form the cultural, referential backbone to these uncertain times.
The bemoaning of popular culture (or an inability to keep up with the Kardashians) for an apparent 'lack of depth' is a redundant pastime undertaken principally by morons with too much spare time and not enough peripheral vision. Like classic car fairs, this kind of cynical critique is the remit of Golden Age revisionists – people (almost exclusively White Male people) nostalgic for a time that simply never existed. Even if it were true, what we're talking about is a symptom and not a disease – it's pretty much as close to Grade A 100% Pure Bullshit as one can get to suggest that life imitates art.