Feb 24, 2023
Web Exclusive

By Chris Thiessen

No one could ever accuse soul-punk group Algiers of lacking passion. For 10 years now, the Atlanta quartet—centered on the baritone roar of vocalist Franklin James Fisher—have fired off stern polemics against societal injustices and the people who ensure their persistence and have set out to expose The Underside of Power. Yet they’ve often struggled with marrying this passion with precision, their finished products unable to fulfill the revolutionary ideas behind them. On 2020’s There Is No Year, the issue was a lack of ferocity as their more polished rock approach too often tended toward the inoffensive. On their newest album, Shook—a 17-track undertaking featuring the notable talents of Zack De La Rocha, the Dungeon Family’s Big Rube, rappers billy woods and Backxwash, and a “whole cloud of witnesses…clamoring for freedom”—the issue is quite the opposite: a tumultuous lack of clarity.

While special care is paid to the demolitionist sounds and textures that fill Algiers’ dense and thunderous forests—the way a cicada call is sampled and mixed on “Momentary,” for example, is unsettling in the best way—the same care isn’t always applied to their arrangements. Occasionally, Algiers is locked in, like on “A Good Man,” a self-effacing punk rocker filled with furious drums, squawking guitar lines, booming riffs, and a stellar performance from Fisher. More often than not, however, songs like “Something Wrong,” which begins with a heavy dub-referencing funk beat before getting a DJ Screw treatment and then transforming into a punk screamer, become unwieldy and you forget where you’ve started by the time you reach the song’s end. The message is lost in the cacophony. One gets the vaguest sense that Shook is meant to inspire hope in the face of despair. Unfortunately, that hope is intangible for the majority of the album’s runtime. (

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