The three-columned front page of Algiers’ web site spotlights the gospel-industrial hybrid’s post-punk, jazz, and hip-hop influences, along with civil rights leaders, philosophers and artists whose words and actions inform the band’s protest ethos and reaction-provoking works of art. It’s a comprehensive maze of the band’s likes and +1s, in today’s social media parlance. That the trio’s 11-song debut album on indie giant Matador comes across much like its web site’s front page – dense, oversaturated, self-important – is no great surprise. The online collage viewed in sum is designed to signal Algiers as a serious band with serious ideas capable of helping listeners make sense of what is a confusing, and often terrifying, world. And while pieces of this hinted at manifesto are present on record, the puzzle is far from complete.

Algiers’ journey started in Atlanta, Georgia, where the band’s three members – singer Franklin James Fisher, bassist Ryan Mahan and guitarist Lee Tesche – collectively agreed they needed to GTFO the South – and its attendant racism, homophobia, poverty and Jesus freakdom – for metropolitan locales (Fisher to NYC; Mahan and Tesche to London). I get why they took the next flight out. I also flew far, far away from my native south Louisiana (for the Pacific Northwest and then New York). The South is a centuries-old open wound vis a vis slavery – unwashed, ignored, destined to never heal unless people living there acknowledge the wound still exists.

Because Algiers, as a mixed-race band, makes culturally relevant editorial statements in its music and online curation, the temptation is to anoint them without appraising their music first. One popular blog, for instance, breathlessly described them as revolutionary, and other magazines and blogs have zeroed in on the band’s formation over shared politics to drive home that here is a band with much to say. Making statements that decry our nation’s history of slavery, for instance, like the band does on “Blood” is a laudable use of its pulpit. So too is the renunciation of unprovoked violence on “But She Was Not Flying”. It does not mean the band is the second coming of its myriad influences – Miles Davis, Public Enemy, Joy Division, etc.

Algiers is enjoyable in small doses. Any more than that and it’s necessary to believe what you’re hearing is “important.” That’s not to say its message lacks merit. It’s Fisher’s delivery of said message that is problematic. He is theatrical, aggrieved and ultimately tiresome, like a preacher breathing fire and brimstone without coming up for air. He is Saul Williams, if Saul Williams grew up worshipping at the altar of Ian Curtis. The gospel in the midst of a panic attack musical presentation that backs Fisher ebbs and flows between enrapturing and enervating. The album starts with two dirge-y numbers, suffocating in their seriousness. “And When We Fall” is no less intense than its predecessors, but Mahan’s eerie bassline provides a toe-tapping escape. “Old Girl” wastes little time grabbing ears with its impatient drum machine beat and clock tower drone. “Irony Utility Pretext” sounds like workout music for Master Shredder’s Foot Clan decrying Afro-pop presented in a “decolonized context.” Yep, Fisher sings the phrase decolonized context on a song that recalls the soundtrack of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Revolutionary,indeed.

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