A fiery proposition with a fearsome live reputation, Algiers are making a name for themselves, and Getintothis‘ David Hall was on hand to see what they had to offer.
On a chilly night in Liverpool, Atlanta, Georgia’s much-touted “dystopian soul” outfit Algiers were nicely paired with our favourite local doomy dream pop septet Bonnacons of Doom, wedged onto The Magnet stage.
Bonnacons remain a unique offering, their sound at The Magnet ranging from Godspeed-esque clanging ambient pieces to blistering effects laden post rock in a series of hypnotic bass riffs and Cocteau Twins vocals.
If you haven’t heard Algiers, or their outstanding album of this year The Underside of Power, there’s really no sound like them at the moment. Their list of influences and soundalikes alone is dizzyingly extensive. Gospel? Check. Southern soul? You bet. Blues, industrial, post-punk? All of those and more.
Live, Algiers were a noirish concoction that recalled Muddy Waters or Nina Simone as much as Joy Division at The Magnet. There’s a sentence you don’t get too often. Theirs was a demonic soul full of civil rights struggle, fired and orbiting around singer Franklin James Fisher‘s pained, incendiary howl.
It’s not every day that you see a band describing themselves as influenced by Bertolt Brecht. It’s rarer still that you hear their music and realise that’s a fair assessment. From a droning intro, the propaganda-style backdrop poster in Liverpool or the spoken word samples the band used throughout, Brechtian tricks and motifs peppered their performance.
Algiers aren’t a band afraid of a theatrical swoop. Whether it’s through their moniker – redolent with palpable meaning – the manic intensity of Fisher‘s vocal and bassist Ryan Mahan‘s bedroom mirror dance moves or the feeling of end times that pervades their work. Everything felt like a sweeping statement, right down to Fisher’s fingers, taped up like a boxer ready for a bout.
Onstage at The Magnet, the band rocketed out of the blocks, firing off The Underside Of Power opener Walk Like A Panther with intent. When the synth blasts of Death March swaggered around, it found Fisher prowling around the audience, encouraging participation. The Liverpool audience rose to the challenge and gleefully reciprocated with swarming moves, grooving along to deep cuts like Old Girl and Cleveland.
From there however, the energy levels and the focus of the gig seemed to go downhill. There were moments of such potency, like when singer got into the crowd and quickly roused the rabble into a dancing protest horde early on, that the rest of the evening failed to live up to.
It was almost as if the gig bent and buckled around those outstanding moments, and that other parts of the night were simply unable to keep up the pace. Those highlights were honestly incredible. Electrifying, really, without wanting to get too far into hyperbole.
But the intensity dissipated and then went missing through energy sapping mood pieces and what seemed from the crowd like equipment problems. A frustrating night then. For the first fifteen to twenty minutes? Gig of the year contender, no doubt about it. Thereafter? Paled by comparison.
Photos by Getintothis‘ Tomas Adam