PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Algiers: Algiers

Photo: Alex DiMora

The debut album from the post-punk/gospel trio Algiers is provocative, challenging, and nothing short of a triumph.



Label: Matador
US Release Date: 2015-06-02
UK Release Date: 2015-06-01

Aggressive music is all about catharsis, but it’s very rare that it has a purpose beyond that. Very often, aggression seems like the end in of itself for musicians, little more than just an expression of rage for its own sake. When that rage has a purpose, though, it can lead to some powerful moments. Algiers have rage and aggression to spare, but there’s a higher point to their anger. Given the times we live in, we shouldn’t be surprised: there’s plenty to be angry about in the world, and Algiers seem more tapped into social consciousness than any other band actively working. As a result, their debut is a revolutionary record, but not in the sense that it’s a radical reinvention of music. This is music written with a purpose, music to start a revolution.

Algiers work in pretty well-worn territory on this record; anyone with a passing familiarity with post-punk will likely understand where they’re coming from. However, one should not lump the band in with the likes of Editors, She Wants Revenge, or other blatant knockoffs hoping to pilfer the cool of the past. Instead, Algiers do something rather clever with this tried-and-true sound: they externalize it, taking the insular, inward trajectory of post-punk and turning it out onto an unexpecting world. What’s more, Algiers’ music takes a Southern bent, incorporating the traditions of soul and gospel into their dark world. Songs like “Remains” and “Blood” share these traditions, but the conviction expressed on these songs is not necessarily one of hope; there’s a palatable sense of dread and an acknowledgment of the darkness of the world at large. Elsewhere, “Irony Utility Pretext” and “Old Girl” feel closer to post-punk with flashes of electronica, but it never quite falls into pastiche. The result is something rare: a near-perfect mesh of melody and dissonance designed to lure the listener in before exposing the harsh truth.

That truth comes mostly from the mouth of Franklin James Fisher, whose voice and lyrics are what really define Algiers. Fisher’s voice is a powerful weapon, one that he wields as effectively and deftly as a master swordsman. Fisher’s voice keeps the album grounded in the real world, and it gives a touch of humanity to the proceedings when other artists may have preferred a more detached approach. Rather than disengage from the horrors around him, Fisher is actively attacking them, confronting the demons of a world he grew up in but doesn’t really feel a part of. The passion in his voice is infectious, and it makes for a truly compelling listen.

The band’s success isn’t entirely due to Fisher’s contributions alone, though. While Algiers have been notable for their open embrace of politics and provocative song titles and images like “Black Eunuch,” but they set out to make an equally confrontational musical experience. The band’s incorporation of gospel elements into their sound not only sets them apart musically, but it comes with a loaded historical context, one that was surely intentional. This is music that runs deep in America’s roots, but it’s also music that comes with a tragic backstory that many people don’t necessarily want to face up to. When Fisher sings about a chained man on “Remains”, there’s a clear connotation that’s impossible to miss, and Algiers don’t want you to miss it. It’s a deliberately provocative gesture, but it’s made with a purpose, which is all too rare these days.

You can make the case that Algiers aren’t original, but it’s hard to argue that they aren’t exciting. The substance of their music is rather uncommon, especially in an indie-rock scene that seems to be getting more insular by the day. Algiers have attempted the near impossible by trying to craft art with a purpose in 2015, but they have just about done it. With any luck, they’ll get people’s attention in the right way.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.