It goes without saying that no one in attendance at the Moth Club for the first of Algiers‘ two night residency is going to be complaining about the intimacy of the venue. Nevertheless, it feels curious that a band that has released one of this year’s finest albums isn’t filling a larger venue. That confusion is easily doubled when you consider not only the album’s quality, but its importance. In a year that has seen far-right groups crawl out from whatever rock they formerly resided under and into the mainstream – culminating in the Charlottesville rally and subsequent murder of 32-year-old Heather D Heyer, and the US President’s decision to retweet anti-Muslim post by the deputy leader of Britain First – the righteous indignation of Algiers’ music should be filling stadiums.
And their music is a broad church. Rather than focus on contemporary specifics, The Underside Of Power speaks to historical, current, and sadly in all likelihood, future injustices. Just as they are thematically ageless their music has an elasticity that binds them to no one genre. The sound that rings out at the Moth Club incorporates punk’s ferocity, industrial rhythms bent into R&B shapes with added shades of psychedelia, and of course firebrand soul. They perform at a pitch that feels critical and turns the atmosphere urgent and passionate with gospel cadences.
Much like the Moth Club tips its hat to the venue’s history whilst hosting an array of contemporary acts, Algiers bridge a temporal divide. Their music evokes 19th-century gothic that acknowledges the dark chime of history but also feels utterly present via their use of electronics and drum machines in places. The inclusivity of the music extends to the band’s performance which consistently breaches the barrier between audience and performer – quite literally when vocalist/guitarist Franklin James Fisher joins the crowd on the floor a number of times throughout their set. His voice is as powerful and passionate as it needs to be as a conduit for their intensity of the songs. Ryan Mahan is an equally engaging performer who attacks his bass with muscular theatrically, but never a the expense of groove.
Much like the sometimes psychedelic nature of their music is also firmly rooted in an often grim reality, the melodrama of their set creates a dense and intoxicating atmosphere, but never at the expense of truth and pragmatism. Their music rages against inequality and fascism, but as heavy as their themes are it’s also heady, rousing and danceable. By the time they bust out their latest album’s title track the room is fully plugged into the band’s irresistible groove, and with that comes immense hope, because as Fisher sings “I’ve seen the underside of power / It’s just a game that can’t go on.” Algiers’ unifying set at the Moth Club allowed no room for figureheads – rock star, religious, or otherwise. As their sign at the back of the stage reads, all the power to the people.