Algiers is a band that has always been about pushing sonic boundaries. From politically charged hip-hop bars to punishingly loud post-punk instrumentals, Algiers has been writing the modern book on how not to get classified into any genre that people might try to identify them. With new upcoming release, Shook, Algiers is back at it once again with a record that's just as heavy as it is thought-provoking. With a cast of icons and future stars featured on this new release, Algiers has crafted a well-rounded effort that grabs the listener and never lets go. With multi-instrumentalist/frontman Franklin James Fisher at the wheel for all 17 tracks, Algiers has hit a new prime on Shook.
When the lead single for this record Bite Back dropped, I was intrigued by what Algiers had planned for their 4th studio release. Joined by legendary underground New York rapper Billy Woods and Zambian-Canadian rapper BackxWash, the track's dark, experimental, dissonant nature made me hear something so dark as to earn the band's self-declared dystopian-soul genre label. The skittering drumbeats and fiery bars from Fisher all over this track do well to make a menacing, often heated statement. The dissonant abstract-experimental beat on top of the ice-cold delivery with every performer on this track makes the listener hear the words of what each artist is saying, and the chemistry between these three acts makes this track feel like a Wu-Tang Clan-Esque performance from an all-star cast of rappers.
The apocalyptic vibes all over this record make each track seem like a cliffhanger for the next. Algiers can seem shameless on tracks like 73% while also sounding like they're making a call to action on the tracks where they sound the heaviest with the booming drums, screeching guitars, and hypnotic electronics. The activism of Algiers has never been questioned, and the Genius lyric sites are a worthy companion for these records. This track does well to communicate directly with the listener with the darkwave-inspired instrumental that would feel at home on an Idles or METZ record. While the experimental aspects of this record are readily apparent, the stripped-down punk roots of MC5 and Bad Brains are also influences that Algiers wear on their sleeves. Not to mention all of the saxophone freakouts on this record that might feel right at home on a Ska or Reggae record.
All the features on this record justify their existence in a precise way. The Billy Woods appearance on this record shows the underground New York rapper feeling right at home, doing business as usual backed by the dark alley mysteriousness Algiers has been perfecting up to this point in the band's career. The Zach De La Rocha feature on Irreversible Damage might appear as a novelty at face value, but when the Rage Against The Machine frontman shows up, the result is a quick, concise, spear-headed endeavor.
A Good Man shows Algiers exposing their punk roots in an utmost presentation on this record. On this track, Fisher battles with the fundamentals of the human condition. When the blasting d-beats appear throughout the track, it quickly becomes a circle-pit-ready staple for the band in a live setting. The overall soul and Afropunk influences that Algiers have embraced since day one come to tight cohesion on this record. Some tracks feel like soul ballads and even like aggressive alternative hip-hop that thrashes the listener around and doesn't let up until the track inevitably burns out in a short runtime of these types of tracks.
I Can't Stand It is a dialed-back track with a soulful band of looped voices carrying the track along with its jazzy drums and grooving bassline. While this track is one of the more mellow cuts off the record, the tension-building and overall message of the track make it gracefully captivating. The soaring keyboard strings lead into a horror movie-styled outro that's carried by a soft-spoken female voice speaking about the dangers of bad relationships and the desire to make something work with someone on a path that will lead to the destruction of themselves and others. What’s great about many of these tracks is that the beat switches and instrumental shifts make the listener feel like there’s more to this record than just the initial impression of it.
Green Iris is a grim, soulful journey that erupts into a horn-infused, forward-thinking anthem. The enthralling synths and explosive percussion make the track seem like the band is just jamming noise rock and other fiery shenanigans in the last whole 2 minutes of the 6-minute monster of a track. The last-leg freakout on this track is a worthwhile thrill ride that will leave the listener wanting more. What makes Green Iris the biggest highlight for me is the overall eclectics of the track. The band showcases everything they have in its current arsenal, including its ability to melt your face with its brand of soul-post-punk-induced chaos that proves its case in a lightning-fast yet cut-and-dry, easy-to-latch-onto manner.
Suppose Algiers keeps up the conceptual chaos that weaves in and out of their discography. Thus far, their socially-charged trajectory will be among the most exciting music in multiple genres. The music can be heavy and often mosh-centric, but the lyricism and concepts make you want to think things further. With the band's slated performances already stacking up for 2023, fans will be excited to see how these tracks translate in a live setting.
Shook is out February 24th via Matador Records.