Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Shook is a work of communal joy and resilient rage from Algiers


Release date: 24 February 2023
Algiers - Shook cover
21 February 2023, 09:00 Written by Caleb Campbell

Shortly before the release of their third full-length record, Algiers dropped a standalone single, “Can The Sub_Bass Speak”, delivering one of the most captivating, thoughtful, and audacious tracks in their catalogue.

In fact, the single was so outstanding that its quality even overshadowed a lot of what came on their subsequent album, There Is No Year, a record that found the typically fiery band turning towards more moody and gothic soundscapes.

That move was emblematic of Algiers’ creative approach. At every turn in their career, Algiers have carved their own path, for better at worse, and that iconoclastic ethos holds equally true with their fourth full-length record, Shook.

When looking at the tracklist for Shook, one thing is immediately evident – this is Algier's most collaborative record to date. Some true heavy-hitters join the band for their latest record, including underground luminaries like Billy Woods and Backxwash, Atlanta rap legend Big Rube, and Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha. These additions transform Shook into a work of communal joy and resilient rage, written as a reflection of what all of its creators were struggling with in the midst of the pandemic.

Even for a restless band like Algiers, Shook feels like a purposeful step into something new, incorporating loads of experimental textures, adding a heavier influence from hip-hop, and blending it all with the band’s patented fusion of punk, soul, and gospel. Skittering chopped and screwed beats run throughout the record, paired with homemade samples and field recordings, and all layered on top of spiked guitar textures. This makes for some dizzying moments of intensity, such as the climax of “Irreversible Damage”, when the brittle and breakneck hi-hats mix with the cascading guitar lines and apocalyptic vocal performances. Similarly, “Everybody Shatter” opens the record on a dose of electrifying dance punk, driven by a sharp funk groove and an anthemic call-and-response chorus.

Though the band’s familiar searing punk soul comes through intact on tracks like “A Good Man” or the careening invectives of “73%”, the record’s best moments find the band colouring further outside the lines. Hints of jazz, gospel, and blues shade the edges of “Green Iris,” but by the song’s end, it shifts into something completely unique, with rippling analogue synths riding above sequenced drums and a resonant gospel choir. In contrast, “Something Wrong” traces the events of a traffic stop, beginning with an insistent groove before transforming into a psychedelic mid-section, complete with slowed-down vocals and bleary squawks of saxophone. As the song’s narrative descends into violence, the instrumental turns jagged and manic, with frontman Franklin James Fisher howling out the cop’s orders一“Get out the car right now, son / Boy, don’t fight back.”

However, while these moments represent the record’s energetic peaks, much of Shook actually leans in a more subtle and textural direction. The record is largely knit together by a series of spoken-word passages and recordings, splitting the distance between poetry, confessionals, and sermons. Some of these do feel rather ungainly, and they do occupy a large portion of the tracklist, but they also are magnetic in their own way, immersing the listener in the album’s community of voices and collaborators. At moments, it feels like the realization of what the band hinted towards with “Can The Sub_Bass Speak”, with Fisher fitting his manic soul-man performances into tightly wound poetics and fractured understated instrumentals, all while giving a voice to the community of creatives that surrounds the band.

Still, it would be easy to write off parts of Shook as too overwrought, too abstract, or too experimental. The numerous spoken-word passages and free-jazz soundscapes certainly don’t lend themselves to easy listening. However, Algiers’ appeal lies in their willingness to go in new directions with each release. In a music landscape where trend-chasing is easier than ever, Algiers don’t feel ahead of the curve, they feel like they are racing on a different track. When combined with their expansive range of collaborators, that willingness to go their own way makes for a powerful new addition to their catalogue with Shook.

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