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Algiers
There Is No Year Simon Jay Catling , February 3rd, 2020 09:14

Confidence is never something that’s been lacking with Algiers, but with their third album there’s a sense that now, more than ever, they’ve got it down as to how best to direct it, finds Simon Jay Catling

Algiers’ previous record, 2017’s The Underside of Power, was a doubling down on the dense wall of noise of its self-titled predecessor. There Is No Year isn’t exactly a retreat from that; the four-piece’s loosely post-punk template is still based around vocalist Franklin James Fisher raging against the dying light, as he fights to find space amongst the claustrophobia of his bandmates’ juddering industrial hisses and thuds. This time round, though, he’s starting to win the battle. His lyrics – taken entirely from a self-penned poem called ‘Misophonia’ – sound clearer than ever before. In the first third of the album in particular, the relatively dry mix applied to his vocal means that, even when things are tilting and howling at their most unshackled, the singer is in tortured ecstasy just inches from you.

Fisher still teeters between anguish and hope. On ‘Dispossession’ he sings “run and tell it to everybody underground, freedom is coming soon”, moments after looking over America as “it burns in the streets”. Elsewhere there’s the hollered refrain of “we all dance into the fire” on ‘Hour of the Furnaces’, which really could apply to any number of the current political or climate crisis facing us at the moment. It’s a broad brushstroke, and the myriad ways in which he ultimately says little more than ‘we’re fucked’ does become a little one dimensional by the record’s end – although it has to be said, Algiers do also have a knack of knowing when it’s time to wrap up and go home, There Is No Year clocking in at a taut forty minutes.

Pushing their talismanic singer further to the front, as they have done gradually over their three record, is proof Algiers now know their own dynamic well and in turn it allows Fisher to work his voice through ever more diverse turns: gradually raising the temperature on the opening title track to become obsessed preacher, soulfully crooning through the ghostly keys and shimmers of ‘Losing is Ours’, bobbing and weaving amidst the synth-pop of ‘Chaka’ (one of There Is No Year’s best moments occurs here, incidentally, in the form of guesting Skerik’s gloriously unhinged blast of saxophone squall.)

Skerik’s contribution is just one of the highlights provided by those other than Fisher. Ex-Bloc Party man Matt Tong is still on board, providing a glinting backbone to proceedings; Ryan Mahan creates ever more portentous synthesized soundscapes alongside his bass playing, while Lee Tesche sounds like he’s having the time of his life adding great washes of guitar to the melee. Algiers will always be big, bold and unapologetically earnest and while you’d stop short of saying something like they’re a vital band for our times, it’s good to have someone around who cares for them as much as they do.

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