Essential New Music: Algiers’ “The Underside Of Power”

The wall of sound this band generates with distorted guitars, samples, industrial noise and live drums is overwhelming at times, but the message it conveys about race and class in America is an important one. Vocalist Franklin Fisher delivers the band’s sermons with an effective flair, slipping easily between soul, gospel, rock, jazz and hip hop. The instrumental textures are dense and multilayered, producing music that blends anger with a measured optimism. “Cleveland” draws parallels between the KKK in the ’50s and ’60s and today’s more subtle racism. It includes chilling shout-outs to seven African-American prisoners who were the victims of police violence while they were in custody. “The Cycle/The Spiral: Time To Go Down Slowly” sounds like Ray Charles fronting Nine Inch Nails, a cry of defiance in the face of the sinister forces encroaching on our freedoms, while the title track is a Motown-flavored rocker with slashing guitar pyrotechnics that complement Fisher’s operatic fervor.

—j. poet