Algiers: Shook Album Review | Pitchfork

Algiers’ politics isn’t subtle: For starters, they take their name from a place that was once at the heart of the anti-colonial struggle. The Atlanta band’s lyrics are staunchly anti-capitalist, fueled by the righteous anger of people who know exactly how we got here and who’s to blame. Additionally, frontman Franklin James Fisher is acutely aware of his place as a black leader in a white industry, and how the gang’s values ​​inform how they are perceived. Though their debut was steady and focused, the group has at times buckled under the weight of their own bombast, hunched over like Atlas as they carry a load so great it threatens to crush them. But shook, while characteristically dark and deadly serious, feels different. It’s a record built around community, evidence that when the struggle is shared with like-minded peers, it feels lighter. The music too.

The group draws from an eclectic palette (gospel, blues, rap, jazz, R&B, metal, spoken word), creating a chaotic mosaic backed by drums and industrial synths. As influences they cite producers DJ Premier and DJ Screw; the New York punks of the first wave, Dead Boys; East Berlin post-punks Dïat; Memphis MC Lukah; and crew rappers from Buffalo, New York, Griselda. It’s intentionally disparate, but you can see where the dots connect: the way Premier and Screw used very different ways to manipulate previously recorded material; the mocking tone of the New York and German gangs, which exudes sarcasm; and the outsider ethos of rappers spiritually connected to New York City, even if they are physically distant from it. It’s hard to pin down, but these ostensibly paradoxical legacies are intertwined throughout shook.

The characters that populate the album help narrow the scope of his anger, drawing closer to individual perspectives and experiences. When rapper/producer Backxwash raps, “The news said I was crazy/Until it happens to you” on “Bite Back,” she does so to a world that seeks to criminalize her existence, in a verse that leans heavily on the infamous manhunt for former Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner. When Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha yells, “What will it be, God? / There’s no rehab for my jihad” on “Irreversible Damage,” he does so from the heart of his band’s radical spirit.

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Yet no figure has as much influence on the LP’s overall message as Big Rube, the spoken word poet best known for his Dungeon Family affiliation and storytelling on classic OutKast records. The rumbling bass tones of Rube’s voice, which are peppered throughout the album, instantly lend shook a strong sense of place, declaring from the jump that this record is a product of Atlanta. And there’s a sweetness to his speech, its worn texture hinting at hardships. He serves as the conscience of the record and, in a way, of the town, the wise old uncle willing to reveal the unvarnished truth to you.

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