Atlanta, Georgia’s Algiers write haunting, simmering songs that pull as much from gospel, blues, and soul as they do from traditional rock ‘n roll. It’s this clash of past meets present that drives the music forward and left the audience at Bottom of the Hill on Tuesday night on their back heels in awe when the four-piece band performed live.
Led by lead singer and guitarist Frank James Fisher’s preacherly voice, Algiers use their music as a vehicle to rage against the racial status quo. Fisher lyrics cite both the historical injustices in the United States to black communities (On “Blood”: “They got you in their hand / Fifteen minutes of freedom / Still 3/5 a man”) and the same injustices that still operate in full-view today (“They said it’s not enough / Just to shoot us down / It’s a sound that’s systematized / It’s a noise just to drown us out” from “Irony. Utility. Pretext.”).
Thankfully, Fisher and co. do not rage blindly or without precise musical vision. “Irony. Utility. Pretense.” uses a drum machine and la-la-la chants to recall the ranting industrial pop of Nick Cave’s early work while “Remains” chills with its distant howling and backing choir. The band ripped through a good portion (if not all) of the song’s from their self-titled debut LP and you could tell the audience was blown away. It’s rare to see a band with this kind of political and musical vision working so well in tandem — pulling from traditional Southern music motifs to craft mesmerizing anti-establishment music. Call it punk, call it rock, call it gospel. Either way it’s co-opting, it’s gracious, and it’s undeniably powerful.