Review: Algiers Shakes Things Up

Three out of Five Stars

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Four albums on, Algiers make an emphatic impression from the get-go courtesy of “Everybody Shatter,” a call to arms that demonstrates the band’s ability to transcend genres and take on a populist approach. It’s an opening barrage for an album that’s plied with explosive rhythms—the fully-fueled “Irreversible Damage” and “A Good Man” being prime examples, along with the pulsating tempos that underscore nearly every other song, with “13%” and “Cleanse Your Guilt Here” as well.  Rap and hip-hop are primed throughout the 17-song set, and yet there’s some subliminal messaging providing essential elements as well.

I can’t stand it, you turned the world the wrong way around, they declare on “I Can’t Stand It,” a protest anthem with a markedly modern disposition.

Algiers doesn’t mine this terrain alone. Any number of special guests take part in the proceedings, among them, Zack de la Rocha, Big Rube (The Dungeon Family), billy woods, Samuel T. Herring (Future Islands), Jae Matthews (Boy Harsher), LaToya Kent (Mourning [A] BLKstar), Backxwash, Nadah El Shazly, DeForrest Brown Jr. (Speaker Music), Patrick Shiroishi, Lee Bains III, and Mark Cisneros (Hammered Hulls, The Make-Up, Kid Congo Powers). Each artist takes turns coming to the fore, adding a dynamic and dichotomy that shifts from track to track. The result is easily the most adventurous album in the band’s combined career, but to their credit, it also maintains a certain consistency that rarely falters in terms of either energy or intent.

That said, “All You See Is” is, by turns, both solemn and cerebral. In fact, there seem to be deeper thoughts ingrained in several of these songs, as if the players are intent on conveying some sort of philosophical messaging in the midst of their beats and bravado. The majority of the album is shared from an urban point of view, but clearly, Algiers is aiming to impart deeper meanings and metaphors. On the other hand, the noise and novelty can be a bit much at times, as the aptly titled “Something Wrong” proves early on. The weird effects only add to the malaise, ensuring that less patient listeners will likely beg for even a hint of relative respite.

That rarely comes, and yet those willing to wade through the shifting tones and textures may find their reward. Consider Shook an example of auditory excess plied with aural intrigue.

Photo by Ebru Yildiz / Matador records

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