Algiers are a rare breed of indie rock band. Fusing gospel, industrial beats, noise rock and post-punk with a chilling level of political relevance, the Atlanta-based trio's self-titled debut is unlike anything you're likely to hear this year. As you would expect, this doesn't make for a comfortable listen and there are plenty of jarring moments - but give it time and you'll soon be seduced by it's strange and arresting beauty.
Throughout the course of the album the band dissect American colonialism and examine the seemingly irreparable racial wounds of modern society but this never comes across as self-righteous or arrogant. Instead, it serves as a potent reminder that rock music can still be intellectually challenging in an age where disposable media and entertainments are thrust upon us at every turn.
The music itself rarely disappoints despite it's gothic and near-apocalyptic atmosphere and this is largely due in part to singer Franklin James Fisher, whose vocals are a thing of genuine wonder. He demonstrates an extraordinary range, viciously primal and raging in the way of the gospel tradition. However, on the tortured lullaby of 'Games' Fisher adopts a much more subtle and soulful inspired inflection. It's a perfect example of the band's sumptuous depths.
The snarling and hypnotic centrepiece, 'Irony. Utility. Pretext.' is perhaps Algiers at their most focused. Sinister industrial rhythms spill out amidst a barrage of sloganeering, "Inscribe your tyrant's name in blood / Choice is the guillotine!", "Embrace primitive man! / Destroy primitive man! / With our art we'll transcend again!" From here the track builds to an epic crescendo, punctuated by 80's sci-fi futurism and tribal backing vocals.
'Blood' is a ritualistic call to arms, sounding not too dissimilar to TV On The Radio of old and even though the long, sampled intro is absent here it still packs one hell of a punch. The dizzying funk of 'Black Eunuch' is followed by three of the least abrasive tracks, allowing the remainder of the album freedom to breathe. This does result in one misfire, the overwrought 'In Parallex' feels unnecessary by this point. Fortunate then, that the haunting but exquisite untitled instrumental that follows, dissolves that thought within a couple of minutes.
Algiers are the perfect antidote to the saccharine, Pepsi-toting, consumerist endorsing pop stars Bill Hicks shouted about all those years ago. Yet, for all the album's strengths, you feel that this trio still possess a frightening amount of potential. Who knows what the future has in store for them. For now, let us celebrate this. An astonishing debut from an essential new band.
Words: Luke Winstanley
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