Home > Arts/Culture/Entertainment > Algiers bring the sounds of Atlanta’s strident past and joyous present to Sleeping Village

Algiers bring the sounds of Atlanta’s strident past and joyous present to Sleeping Village

The cover imagery on Algiers’s new album, Shook, can be interpreted as empowering or forsaken. A black wolf with feral or fawning eyes—you decide—stands in profile with its head lowered, a chain dangling from its mouth. I like to think that the wolf isn’t genuflecting but rather holding the tools of its oppressor between its teeth—and it’s not a stretch to say that the band think the same. 

The apocalyptic soul quad have always made staunchly political music. They named their band after the capital city of Algeria, a home base in the battle against French colonization for more than a century. On Shook as on their previous albums, the band’s lyrics reflect that spirit of resistance. 

Conceptualized by bandleader Franklin J. Fisher and bassist Ryan Mahan, Shook centers racial solidarity and revolution. With hotheaded wails and earnest clamor, Fisher recounts the Atlanta child murders of 1979-1981, in which more than 30 Black people, predominantly children and adolescents, were targeted and killed; the 1985 Philadelphia police bombing of Black liberation group MOVE; and other instances of police brutality that color our country’s past, present, and future blood red. 

While Algiers’s ethos has always been rooted in brotherhood, on Shook they double down on their zest for collaboration by corralling an impressive roster of contributors—among them Rage Against the Machine front man Zack de la Rocha, jazz musician Patrick Shiroshi, Alabama rocker Lee Bains III, and Canadian rapper Backxwash—and emblazoning their names on the album cover. These contributors amplify the record’s white-knuckle feel: de la Rocha’s madcap barks stoke the blistering violence of “Irreversible Damage,” while Jae Matthews (Boy Harsher) and Samuel T. Herring (Future Islands) sing slinky, soulful verses on “I Can’t Stand It!”

Much of Shook orbits Atlanta, where the band members grew up together. It opens with a field recording plucked from Hartsfield Airport and incorporates chopped-and-screwed samples from Peach State artists such as soul singer Lee Moses; elsewhere its tracks are woven together partly by the baritone voice of Atlanta spoken-word legend Big Rube. In the hands of a less seasoned band, Shook could’ve ended up clumsy bricolage, but Algiers capture a perfect snapshot of everyday chaos. Shook is the sound of protest and house parties, the clangor of relationships dissolving and new love beginning. It’s the sound of life as we know it—even when it’s harrowing, it’s rooted in truth.

Algiers Party Dozen open. Thu 3/30, 9 PM, Sleeping Village, 3734 W. Belmont, $18, 21+

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