Politics and rock music have made for uneasy bedfellows in recent years, but some headway has been made recently with the likes of US rockers The Last Internationale and down-at-heel poets Sleaford Mods putting anti-austerity and anti-capitalist ideas at the heart of their music.
Algiers is the latest addition to this groundswell of politically aware groups. A trio originally from Atlanta, Georgia, their debut album is loaded with everything from enhanced gospel hectoring to blood-boiling electronic noise.
From the outset Algiers let fly with a distinctive hybrid of adventurous sonics and expressive lyricism. The tough, drone-oriented opener “Remains” is a taste of what is to come, cast in a pall of industrial gloom, overlaid by the declamatory power of vocalist Franklin James Fisher.
His fierce energy and commanding lyrical bite are just two of the group’s potent weapons. Fisher, bassist Ryan Mahan and guitarist Lee Tesche all contribute to the multiplicity and diversity of the album’s sound. The multi-instrumentalism of Algiers reminds me of the great post-punk experimentalists This Heat and their non-hierarchical methods, politically astute lyrics and formidable intensity.
The combination of gospel/soul fervour and experimental post-punk dissonance makes for an explosive mix of material, allied to an explicitly left wing political worldview. Several songs stand out. The brilliant “Irony. Utility. Pretext.” expands upon the hip hop legacy of Afrika Bambaataa’s immortal “Planet Rock” to create an exhilarating dance anthem for the 21st century.
The chicken scratch funk of “Black Eunuch” is call and response soul distorted by unconstrained anger into a dance number bursting with spirit. But the centrepiece is “Blood”, a brooding, anti-racist polemic that strikes right through you. Dredged from the suffering and agony of oppressed people, their voices pour through Fisher’s every breath.
Algiers summon the legacies of countless revolutionary figures, martyrs and the oppressed, along with daring artists, musicians and cultural figures.
But they are far more than mere revivalists. They are invoked in Algiers’s quest to pursue their own voice, to validate their own voices at a time when seemingly every non-mainstream thought or deed is immediately called into question. They dare to dream and to create, and be damned if necessary.