Atlanta's mixed-race band Algiers (black vocalist Franklin Fisher, guitarist Lee Tesche, bassist Ryan Mahan) invented an original form of gospel-rock on
Algiers (Matador, 2015).
The whole album is played on a bombastic tone, starting with
Remains, that sounds more like a choral pirate singalong than a gospel.
Thundering drums, preacher-like shouting and guitar noise detonate Claudette.
Old Girl transitions from the funereal overtones of tolling bells to hysterically desperate screaming and banging.
Irony Utility Pretext grafts that hysteria onto an electronic dance beat.
The standout, And When You Fall, is like a combination of
Nick Cave's Witness Song and
Florence and the Machine's Dog Days
and the singer gets coarser and coarser.
Surrounded by such energetic material,
the two songs of their first single (originally released in 2012) pale
in comparison: the slow, brooding Blood and the
"Indian" war dance Black Eunuch.
The only drawback is that the album is a bit repetitive.
By the time we get to the
martial closer In Parallax, we have become immune to the emphatic
overtones. Theirs seems to be an idea that doesn't
allow for a lot of variation. It's as if the Doors had made an album with ten copies of Soul Kitchen.
The Underside of Power (Matador, 2017), featuring
Bloc Party's drummer Matt Tong, opens with their powerful
single Walk Like a Panther, sung with
Wilson Pickett-ian unseemly teeth.
Cry of the Martyrs borrows again that Florence and the Machine rhythm and simply accelerates it.
Death March morphs from a Doors-ian ballad to a gothic dance a` la Alien Sex Fiend, but it is in fact a political rant.
The Underside of Power explores a less gloomy side, borrowing from festive Tamla-soul of the 1960s.
But, after four songs, the album, musically speaking, sags.
The ominous vibrations of A Murmur A Sign are dejavu, the
piano elegy Mme Rieux resorts to bombast again, and
Animals is breathless rock'n'roll with little imagination,
and The Cycle/The Spiral intones an odd Caribbean fanfare.
Again, it seems like they are stuck in a narrow stylistic range.
Therefore it is welcome that they leave that narrow space for the
sociopolitical protest songs:
Cleveland (which samples a famous gospel preacher and singer, James Cleveland)
and especially the dissonant and disorienting piano-driven Hymn for an Average Man.
The ghostly Bury Me Standing is another peak of pathos, albeit only two minutes of it.
There Is No Year (Matador, 2020), produced Randall Dunn (Sunn O)))) and Ben Greenberg (Zs, The Men), and ostensibly based on Fisher's lengthy poem "Misophonia",
sounds like a bunch of leftovers appended to the only two good songs:
the hypersonic boogie There Is No Year
and the passionate shout Dispossession.
The rest is way below standard:
Chaka mimics Michael Jackson,,
Repeating Night is another (lame) attempt at the goth dance of the 1980s,
We Can't Be Found is a shameless pop ballad,
and Nothing Bloomed must rank as one of the least exciting
punk-rock songs ever recorded.
Most bands with a sense of dignity would not release such material until
disbanded, on an album of oddities and rarities.
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