Upon their arrival on to the music scene in 2012, Algiers quickly earned a reputation as an explosive, fiery outfit. Their music roared, as bassist Ryan Mahan, guitarist Lee Tesche, and percussionist Matt Tong (who joined in 2017) tackled their craft like maestros. They sought to redraw the lines between experimental and accessible, aiming for a multi-dimensional experience. Rock, post-punk, funk, soul, goth-rock, Krautrock, and gospel fused to create an exhilarating and sometimes chaotic sound.
The only thing more wall-shaking than the band’s music was frontman Franklin James Fisher’s lyrics. Like Bruce Springsteen and Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine before him, no subject was too controversial. Politics, social upheaval, the decaying of the human mind, Fisher attacks every topic with conviction. This band has delivered two of the finest albums of the 2010s. Their 2015 self-titled debut was an intelligent, multilayered kaleidoscope while their 2017 LP, The Underside of Power, was edgy, ferocious, and honest.
For their third full-length, There Is No Year, Algiers takes a more measured approach to their sonic art. This is not to say the band have mellowed. On the contrary, Fisher’s provocative and insightful lyrics that address the state of the world, while Mahan, Tesche, and Tong continue to create raucous soundscapes. They continue to find new ways to rattle our minds and the walls that surround us. They turn subtlety, bleakness, and quiet spaces into elements that first simmer then rage.
The band’s maturation is immediately evident. Opening track “There Is No Year” commences with a percolating, mesmerizing rhythm before Fisher sings one note. As the song accelerates, the stark atmosphere is transformed into an urgent scene of a man on the run, trying to survive and not be shot.
The heavy, brooding “Dispossession” further showcases a band that has tempered their intensity without sacrificing the power of their message. The music is eerie and foreboding, which provides the perfect foil for Fisher’s tale of suppression and oppression.
The slower pacing and dramatic builds are also exhibited on the brilliantly harrowing “Hour of the Furnances” and the hypnotic quietness of “Wait for the Sound”. The former explains how we are all consumed by the fire and drifting towards it. Fisher wails, “We all dancing to the fire”, to reveal how we are pawns in the bigger game. The latter, meanwhile, describes how we cannot escape the flames. The end is approaching, and we cannot run. Despite finality arriving, Fisher consoles us and says things will be alright.
On the industrial “Losing is Ours”, Algiers do the unexpected: they create a spine-tingling number that would pair well with an Edgar Allan Poe poem. Fisher calmly describes how we are our own worst enemies, the source of our collective ills. A similar wickedness exists on the outstanding “We Can’t Be Found”. The track is intense and eerie yet eye-opening. On this occasion, Fischer is Poe as he eloquently describes how people are always watching and waiting to feed on our weaknesses. Adding to the song’s brilliance is how Fisher takes the forms of both the protagonist and the watchers in the night. He repeats in the middle of the track:
“No, we won’t show mercy.
No, we can’t be found.”
Just when Algiers seem to be dialing things down, they deliver the exhilarating “Unoccupied”. Part funk, part rock, and part industrial, Fisher explores his role for the world’s current state. “Chaka”, meanwhile, is a bombastic and chaotic mixture of proto-disco, New Wave, neo-funk, and Radiohead electronics. If “Unoccupied” was introspective, “Chaka” examines the consequences of one’s inaction.
For good measure to remind us what Algiers was and is, the gentlemen unleash closing track “Void”. It is manic, aggressive, and hard. Every element explodes from the speakers, and the desperation that reverberates from Fisher’s voice can be heard from miles and felt for days. He is the voice of a generation trying to “find a way out of it”. Out of this mess we’ve put ourselves in and to stop viewing things through “the looking glass”. The Alice in Wonderland reference is clever because what’s happening in the world should only be pieces of fiction. Instead, we are living in this harrowing fairy tale, and Algiers are here to wake us up from our stupor. With the outstanding and memorable There Is No Year, they have once again opened our eyes, ears, and minds and astounded us in the process.
Algiers will commence a lengthy tour on February 3rd, starting in Brighton, UK. Find dates and information here.
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