MAGNET’s #24 Album Of 2017: Algiers’ “The Underside Of Power”

It’s hard to argue with Algiers even on paper: They’ve been described as dystopian soul, and who doesn’t want to hear that? Soul in a soulless world helps the poison go down. But it’s also obsolete; any soul act is “dystopian soul” in 2017, even if this one fuses techno punk and gospel in a raging firestorm of drum machines that admittedly undercut a tiny bit the amazing sticksman Matt Tong, who made Bloc Party’s first album the only true barnburner of the dance-punk wave. But Algiers’ second LP lacks nothing in neck-snapping, locomotive propulsion on such spooky tornadoes as “Cry Of The Martyrs” (where an extra harmony on the final verses gives the song a fourth melodic dimension) or the tambourine-abusing title tune, which wouldn’t be unreasonable to hear in a church. Their concessions to R&B don’t trade in rock’s blunt force for polyrhythmic complexity but rather a spaciousness that gives lead firebrand Franklin James Fisher the proper haunted reverb for his sustained vibrato. Nothing gets in the way of his voice, so the musique concrète of bluesy howls and eerie backup choirs bolstering him on tracks like “Cleveland” and “Animals” are mere cobwebs up against the battering ram of his instrument. A band like this could only have been born for the end of the world, which sounds so much sweeter than it is while The Underside Of Power is playing. —Dan Weiss