Album Reviews

Algiers – Shook

(Matador) UK release date: 24 February 2023

Three years since their last album, the Anglo-American outfit’s latest is full of invention, creativity and a stellar list of guest names

Algiers - Shook It’s been just over three years since we last heard from Algiers, and in that time it seems like the world has somehow fallen apart and been put back together again. It’s no wonder that, at times, the band’s fourth album Shook seems like a distillation of all the fire and fury generated in the pandemic, lockdown age.

For Shook is quite the journey – as ever with Algiers, it’s a cross-genre delight, hopping from rock to rap to funk, with a side-helping of gospel along the way. This time around, there’s a stellar list of guest names as well, and it almost feels like those guests guide the music – one minute Rage Against The Machine‘s Zach De La Rocha is unfurling one of his trademark incendiary raps, a while later, Samuel T Herring from Future Islands is popping up, growling away in his typically soulful manner.

Those star guests never act as a distraction from the music though, which is almost head-spinningly eclectic. Opening track Everybody Shatter is deeply funky while also nodding to INXS‘ ’80s classic Mediate – the call and response chorus almost feels like an outlier for what’s to come.

For what’s to come cranks up the intensity somewhat. Irreversible Damage is a frantic, percussion led punky snarler, with De La Rocha bringing to mind some of his early Rage Against The Machine lines as he spits out his lines. Later in the record, A Good Man also shows off the more heavy, industrial punk side of the band, featuring frontman Franklin James Fisher screaming “Am I a good man?” to a choral response of “No, not at all”. It’s fast, furious and designed to play very loud indeed.

Of course, this all may become slightly tiresome over 55 minutes, if the entire album was like this. So it’s to Algiers’ credit that they know when to knock the tempo down for some more reflective moments. Bite Back has a slightly unsettling John Carpenter-style synth line running through it, while Billy Woods and Backxwash swap raps effortlessly, and Cold World has chilly, orchestral atmospherics draped all over it, sounding almost cinematic in its ambitious scope, especially when Egyptian singer Nadah El Shazly‘s vocals kick in.

Shook is at its best when it sounds like everything but the kitchen sink is being thrown in. The glorious Something Wrong begins with the song almost falling apart before kicking back in and climaxing in quite the instrumental cacophony, while the post-punk of 73% may be more accessible, but that makes it no less thrilling, with ex-Bloc Party drummer Matt Tong on fine form.

Shook is that sort of album – where industrial punk can rub shoulders with free jazz experimentation on An Echophonic Soul, where spoken word samples give voice to various poets in little minute-long skits between tracks. It’s not the sort of album you can ever relax while listening to, as you’re not entirely sure what’s coming next at any given point. It’s an album full of invention and creativity that never rests on its laurels – maybe not one for everybody, but those who delve into Shook will find so much to explore.

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