The Underside of Power represents the step forward upon Algiers’ already excellent self-titled debut in 2015 its fans dreamed of. Everything feels more honed, more striking in its awakening blend of gospel and earth-rattling post-punk, and perhaps most significantly, more politically pertinent.
Few bands have truly captured today’s turbulence both lyrically and sonically, and in a way which so transparently binds them.
Frontman Franklin James Fisher howling against the ‘crypto-fascist contagion’ as an ominous, driving instrumentation menace in ‘Death March’ would seem a foolish analysis just two years ago, yet is at least considerable now. His lyrics are pointed and unforgiving, yet are clearly the consequence of a well-read dissenter.
Tracks such as ‘Mme Rieux’ and ‘Walk Like A Panther‘ are awash in references to Camus’ existential classic ‘The Plague’ and sample speeches of 1960s Chicago Black Panther Fred Hampton respectively. It is certainly lofty in its intellectual ambitions, but on a more musical level its sound compounds upon the striking rattle of their debut LP.
Tracks such as ‘Cleveland’ embrace gospel influences, with the swell of a choir unusually latching onto a sinister drum beat to create a bleak, commemorative, vengeful ode to Fisher’s analysis of the institutional murder of black people in southern USA. The title track brings to the fore perhaps the most uncharacteristically catchy hook Algiers have ever produced, taking on a far more bluesy tone, only to be laced by the usual turbulence Algiers are known for- they refuse to mislead you into optimism. And why should they? Few bands have truly captured today’s turbulence both lyrically and sonically, and in a way which so transparently binds them. It may be extreme, but a strident protest album it can’t be denied.
Author: Greg Rosenvinge