ALGIERS AT THE BULLINGDON, OXFORD, JULY 4, 2019
Too much already?
I don’t think so. And, judging by the ear-to-ear grins doing the rounds at the Bullingdon, I don’t think anyone else thinks so either.
Algiers lock this 4th of July night down with a one-hour compaction of incendiary avant guitar soul – none of it smooth – and if Walk Like a Panther is your route into this band, as it was for me after a first hearing late last year, you’ll know what that means.
It means you can’t write much without sounding like a shallow, know-nothing arsehole.
Because that track feels like hundreds of years of humanity – struggle, oppression, vitality, love – packed into a fast-edit soundtrack to a burning world, and a lot of that’s down to Franklin James Fisher’s riveting gospel-range vocals. Potent and soul-full, you sense that Algiers are gonna convert that sound into something truly special live because they have to. With a track that fearsome, anything less than revelatory would be fraudulent.
And convert, they do. For just four people – Fisher voice, Lee Tesche guitar, Matt Tong drums, the loose-limbed Ryan Mahan on bass – they make a wild but blisteringly assured sound, almost building their songs as they go along – guitar and keyboard fragments recorded and looped, noise and beats pushed in and out, tambourines and chains shaken and struck. It’s real-time production and construction while playing, and the interplay within the band is loose and pure. If the power cut, they’d find a way to play. You feel they have to get the message out.
Two new tracks get played back to back, both peak-fury punk bombs. Don’t know what the names are but it doesn’t really matter, they’ll be out soon enough. Don’t know what most of the other tracks are either, except for Walk Like a Panther, Blood and The Underside of Power, because when this gig was announced, I held off buying any Algiers albums beyond the digi downloads already bagged. Why? It was a rare chance to see a band in as pure a form as poss, knowing that if they do their job (which they did) they’re gonna sell me the records easily anyway (ditto). Preparation ain’t the point. Participation is.
And tonight we’re bang in the middle of it, the eye of a spirit force: riot soul meets Gambino’s America pulling on Bad Seeds, Godspeed and Zeal & Ardor for as intoxicating a gig as you dared hope. Let’s just leave it at that. For now.