Standing on the steps of a neon-lit church you can just make out the silhouette of four evangelical figures; the last bastion of hope, the vision of future’s past framed by a scorched sky, raining embers of fire, surrounded by the wreckage of humanity’s broken dreams. No, this isn’t the synopsis of the latest Hollywood blockbuster but the overarching feeling that shudders throughout Algiers’ third album ‘There Is No Year’. This is an album that creaks under the pressure of a heavy burden, the notion that, in the not so dim and distant future the apocalypse is coming and there’s almost nothing we can do about it. Although the quartet’s latest offering pre-dates the recent unrest in Iran and subsequent fall-out since the Trump ordered assassination of General Qassem Soleimani and the raging infernos that are engulfing Australia; merged with a global rising of the far- right and socio-political tensions, it’s safe to say, 2020’s picking up where 2019 left off, and where 2018 left off…you get the drift.
With a sound that straddles punk, electro and gospel, if there was ever to be a band to soundtrack Armageddon it should be Algiers; ‘There Is No Year’ plunges you straight into the heat of battle, with the record’s eponymous track leaping into action via an urgent volley of crackled synths and crunching drum machine thwacks. Taking up the mantle of crazed preacher is frontman Franklin James Fisher, as his rich soulful voice barks “now it’s two minutes to midnight/and they’re building houses of cards” as if to depict a clueless government’s crumbling infrastructure, straining under the pressure of its failed actions. Without a moment to draw breath ‘Dispossession’ ramps up the intensity, electronics drone and guitars contort like iron girders being bent under extreme duress. A bounding piano refrain encases a chorus of voices chiming “you can’t runaway” repeatedly. However, the tone is set earlier by Fisher announcing the song with the acapella gut punch of “round around/run away from your America/while it burns in the streets/I’ll be here standing on top of the mountain/shouting down what I see”. By the time third track ‘Hour of the Furnace’ stumbles into view, all hope has gone, as Fisher states “I wish I could say we’ll all be ok” like a man defeated. A slow-mo pulse signals the impeding doom, as the song daubs large the image of the human race dancing to the sparks of a broken world.
The issue here is that with such an intense opening trio of songs, ‘There Is No Year’ struggles to maintain momentum; it’s as if Algiers have gone full meta by documenting the end of the world at the record’s opening moments, only for the rest of the LP to tell the story of what the fuck happens next? Suffice to say, there’s a lull in energy, as you’d expect if you’re surrounded by twisted metal and the notion of humanity being wiped out. Sadly, this turns sections of the record into a bit of a slog. ‘Unoccupied’ gives the album’s midsection some much needed pep and the jarring jazz-electro of ‘Chaka’ conveys a sci-fi twist to an ever-pertinent narrative. As ‘There Is No Year’ appears to trudge to it’s final resting place, album closer ‘Void’ comes out swinging, like it’s not going down without a fight; channelling the punk rampage of their earlier work, the intensity is dialled back up to 11, powered by rampant drumming, yawning guitars and the omnipresent hum of feedback. Fisher can be heard valiantly shouting “got to find a way/got to find away/to get out of it” with an eye bulging determination.
‘There Is No Year’ is a reflection of its subject matter; chaotic, troubled, intense and conflicted, defiant yet broken. A self-fulfilling prophecy enshrouded in a future-retro gospel-electro punk din – the soundtrack to the end of the world.
Words and Thought of Adam Williams
There Is No Year by Algiers, comes out on June 17th via Matador Records