Review By: Mike Gerry
Photos By: Jenny Thomas
Friday marked an important night in music: the official US Release Show for Algiers critically acclaimed self titled debut album, back in their home town of Atlanta, Georgia at The Earl in East Atlanta Village.
Algiers no longer reside out of Atlanta, with Ryan Mahan (vocals, bass) and Lee Tesche (guitar, programming, and production) in London, and frontman Franklin James Fisher (vocals, guitar, piano, and percussion) in New York City. But right on their Facebook page it proudly states their hometown as Atlanta, not Brooklyn, not London, it’s where it all began, where they came up and cut their teeth in Atlanta. But then again, these guys have been together for a long time, slowly crafting their debut album the old fashioned way, through the internet. So maybe there is no where else for this band to call home, but after all, it’s the Atlanta scene that helped shape this debut. And they came home for their first US date behind the debut album. Sold out.
Algiers signed with one of Atlanta’s greatest bands, Mastodon’s label, Matador Records. Since then the build up has been gaining to the release of the album last Tuesday, June 2nd. NPR, Guardian Music, Drowned in Sound, PopMatters, The Line of Best Fit, and many more have all been writing about Algiers. Deservedly so. Now with a US tour happening, it’s time for us all to see what the fuss is all about.
What makes Algiers so special and unique? It simply takes walking into the room where these guys are playing for them to grab your attention. Before you even look up to see Franky in a suit, no tie, looking all business, your ears have already been grabbed. When he sings, without physically screaming at you, Franklin is screaming for your attention, to hear their message. He means what he is saying and you will understand this.
There is something so familiar about Algiers’ music, yet so new and revolutionary. This is soul music at the core, soul music tackling real issues, backed by punk rock, overlayed with heavy synths and loud guitars with some vocal reverb, creating at times a spiritual atmosphere of being at the best of the best of gospel choirs. There is even small hints of hip hop. None of that even makes sense. Yet here is Algiers.
Algiers won’t be for everyone. Often times (not in a demeaning manner) when you say soul music in today’s world, you aren’t exactly thinking the music will challenge you on first listen. But Algiers is exactly that, challenging. There is an experimental side that the Atlanta scene prides itself on. Mixing punk and gospel and expanding the sound through synths, feels like something completely new, and an attitude needed in today’s music.
Yet this isn’t something that should be considered “unaccessible”. The beats, the hand clapping, those soulful harmonies, if the masses can just open up their ears a little more, they can get on board with Algiers.
Seeing them live is where you can truly get Algiers. It’s impossible not feel what Franklin and the boys are bringing. They suck the audience into the moment, and the crowd can’t help but feel every passionate lyric. They demand your attention, and will be sure to take it. Playing one of their slower tunes, “Games”, with a crowd full of old friends talking in the back, probably catching up and remembering old bands these guys used to play in, Algiers slowed it down to a complete stop in the middle of the song. Franklin looked around at the audience, waited for complete silence, grabbing their attention, then cheers started, and then Algiers broke right back in and took the audience to church.
From there on the crowd, danced, clapped, and felt the passion boil in their own blood as Algiers took this sold out crowd by storm. This whole show was a complete standout, but songs like “Irony.Utility.Pretext.” with the danceable synth lines and beat, “But She Was Not Flying”, and show closer “Black Eunuch” were a few that stuck out. But really there wasn’t a single song that didn’t punch you in the chest. The Atlanta crowd stuck around for 30 minutes past the last song, just hoping for a little more, slowly trickling out, contemplating one of the best shows they had seen in their lifetime (at least I did and I’m pretty sure we all agreed).
Why was this so important? In today’s world with everything going on in Baltimore and around the US, the timing is perfect. This is protest music. It’s something the crowds can feel. Yet they aren’t directly addressing the current injustices. This is addressing years of injustice, a reminder of how long this has been going on. It’s an ode to the past. The rebirth in an updated form of the Songs of the Underground Railroad. While rhythm and blues music of the past may not be addressing today’s issues of Spotify, Snapchat, Facebook and the like, their messages can still be relevant in today’s world. Algiers has nailed it.
Seeing them live for the first time, you couldn’t help but thinking you are seeing something special in the making. The whole place could feel it, it was in the air. Algiers plays like a band that’s been touring for 10 years together, yet they really haven’t played that many live shows together over their time living in separate cities. It’s amazing really. The people of Atlanta were seeing right before their very eyes, the making of an absolute force in today’s music industry.
Whether Algiers makes it huge or not, it’s clear that this is a band that will influence future musicians. They are pushing the boundaries, with subjects, lyrics, and musicianship combining opposite genres into something completely new that all makes sense together. Now it’s the rest of the world’s move.
Buy Algiers self titled debut and go see them on tour as soon as you get the chance. Understand for yourself why the music world is gushing over these guys. It will be hard to deny them. In the process you will see one of the best live shows you have ever seen.
Here’s a clip of “Black Eunuch” from The Earl
Upcoming | Local Dates:
Date Venue Location Tickets
Jun 09 Mercury Lounge New York, NY
Jun 10 Baby’s All Right Brooklyn, NY
Jun 13 The Silver Dollar Toronto, Canada
Jun 15 Schubas Tavern Chicago, IL
Jun 16 Triple Rock Social Club Minneapolis, MN
Jun 19 The Sunset Seattle, WA
Jun 20 Biltmore Cabaret Vancouver, Canada
Jun 21 Doug Fir Lounge Portland, OR
Jun 23 Bottom of the Hill San Francisco, CA
Jun 25 The Echo Los Angeles, CA