Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • Algiers [Matador, 2015] **
  • The Underside of Power [Matador, 2017] A-
  • There Is No Year [Matador, 2020] ***
  • Shook [Matador, 2023] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Algiers [Matador, 2015]
Industrial-strength gospel grunge good enough for and better than the politics of rage ("But She Was Not Flying," "And When You Fall") **

The Underside of Power [Matador, 2017]
Initially I thought they had the right idea and the wrong execution--in-your-face politics stretched past their stress threshold by a fusion of soul-rock histrionics and noise-metal aggression. But with fascists in my face too, I gave it another try, and gradually came to understand that electronics mean more to Algiers's guitar-bass-drums than Lee Tesche's ax--they're more Death Grips than Living Colour. "Cleveland"'s gunshots-as-whipcracks, "Plague Years"'s funereal techno, and "Bury Me Standing"'s Gregorian synths are less galvanizing than Death Grips' abrasives. But overwrought though he may be, Franklin James Fisher is more approachable than Stefan Burnett, and not just because he declines to weaponize his dick. Gospel warmth textures his every yowl as he calls out the powermongers, honors the martyrs, grieves for the dying world, and tries to stay on good terms with his mom. A-

There Is No Year [Matador, 2020]
Intelligent, militant, explicit, anti-crypto, all those lefty essentials, but too sludgy in thought and/or musical execution ("Chaka," "Void") ***

Shook [Matador, 2023]
This international, multiracial quartet-plus is one of the darkest bands this side of death metal and knows why, which is politics. A prominent trap set drives texturally articulated keyboardish substructures that incorporate enough actual guitar and bass to sidestep any cheap synth-rock catchall genrewise, and on this album has its lyrical content locked and loaded. From the oppressed "We all shatter, it's a sign of the times" to the unbowed "When we die, our beloved, our kinfolk, fear not/We rise," driving force and chief vocalist-lyricist Franklin Jay Fisher knows whereof he sings, and on this album he's enlisted quite the crew of walk-on allies, most impressively Zack de la Rocha raging against hegemony, Billy Woods honoring his Marxist patrimony, and Afro-Canadian trans pioneer Backxwash representing for her fellow ladies as just one legion of the oppressed. And toward the end comes the grueling "Something Wrong," where you just know the cops are gonna brutalize the painfully polite driver-narrator and can't stop yourself from following every detail. A-