Atlanta-based Algiers have already established themselves with their thrilling blend of militant post-punk and soul music. Their first two albums (their self-titled debut in 2015 and 2017’s ‘The Underside Of Power’) captured them as a sonically innovative outfit – braver than your average indie rock band – but also gave a platform to one of the most untamed, impassioned, impressive and incendiary lead vocalists on the scene in Franklin James Fisher who uses it to offer some of the most vital perspectives on social issues and power struggles in contemporary popular music.
‘There Is No Year’ is the band’s highly-anticipated third album and what we get is more of the same – that is to say, it feels a bit like Algiers are treading familiar water. Algiers don’t seem as rebellious or subversive this time around. While their sound has now been solidified, it has also been stripped back here. The post-punk/soul hybrid has been retained but the trace elements of other genres like industrial, noise, gospel and blues present on Algiers’ other albums are missing and the album does suffer for it.
The album starts with a strong and persistent desire, with the one-two combo of its title-track and Dispossession. Both tracks are energetic, rousing and downright ballsy and could just as easily have appeared on either of their other albums. These tracks give way to the restrained, slow-burning Nothing Bloomed, which seems to constantly climb with a huge, harsh drone towards an earth-shattering crescendo.
However, there is an over-reliance on more subdued tracks like this, and though this is not a new element in the band’s formula, they feel less compelling on ‘There Is No Year’. Wait For The Sound, in particular, feels ironically named as the track feels like its building towards a climax or shift that doesn’t ever come. Much of the sub-bass, signal processing and mish-mash of rock and electronic instrumentation and ambience that made moments like these on earlier albums so dystopian and compelling has been stripped away.
This is particularly evident on Repeating Night, where gripping, bolshy lyrics are undermined by a repetitive, minimal beat that does little to drive the song forward and a jarring chord change after the song’s first verse. Unoccupied, however, has the opposite effect where one of the better instrumentals on the album is spoiled by odd synth patches in the song’s latter half and uncharacteristically boring lyrics about how self-doubt can put a strain on a relationship without offering any new or interesting perspectives on the subject.
Much of what made Algiers such a breath of fresh air makes its way onto ‘There Is No Year’, but the album lacks the fizz and pop of their previous efforts. While undisputedly more focused than their debut album, it lacks the bravery of that album’s sonic fusion and performance. The spark just doesn’t ignite in the same way. While a much cleaner and palatable listen than their previous efforts, this new approach delivers some of Algiers tamest, least interesting and disappointing songs to date.