Algiers: The Underside of Power (Matador)

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Cry of the Martyrs
Algiers: The Underside of Power (Matador)

Two years ago the incendiary, distorted and angry self-titled debut album by this US political powerhouse spent some weeks in and out of our Favourite Five Recent CDs column.

At that time we wrote: “Out of the torn traditions of America's gospel'n'blues Deep South but shot through with post-punk fury, this trio take a hammer to politics, religion and race but couch it in blood-stirring music”.

Well, we are pleased to report that they haven't soften up one iota . . . and in a world where people actually have to say “black lives matter” and their country is riven by race, suspicion of immigrants and a political system which seems to become more broken and damaged every week, why would they?

Now seemingly a four-piece, they again evoke post-industrial gospel hope and post-punk rage. Try the handclap and declamatory Cry of the Martyrs for a start, or the marginally more approachable title track where the gospel sounds conceived in an abandoned steel mill.

They offer you a measure of their intent on the opener Walk Like a Panther which samples the voice of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton (who was shot dead during a police raid in December '69 while he was sleeping).

That historic event has its contemporary link in Cleveland, a yearning blues-soul piece with machine-gun rhythms and siren sounds which is about the police killing of 12-year old Tamir Rice (who was carrying a plastic gun).

Song titles include Death March, Plague Years (a gritty soundscape), A Hymn for An Average Man (a necessary and quiet moment amidst the clamour and tumult, as is the piano ballad Mme Rieux) and Bury Me Standing.

So that's the kind of musical, political and emotional territory Algiers occupy and although they are not an easy proposition – the songs are mashed between industrial rock as much as punk and metal edge guitars – they again come off as 21st century protest music for a generation more willing to take up arms in anger than carrying banners on a street march.

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